Study Of Art – Cimabue (giovanni Cenni). 1240?–1302?

Cimabue was born in Florence in 1240 of noble parentage, according to Vasari. Much doubt has been thrown upon Vasari’s account, and recent critics have gone so far as to discredit all the pictures bearing Cimabue’s name. In the absence of all documentary evidence to the contrary, however, it seems wisest to accept in the main the Florentine tradition, with which Vasari was certainly familiar. The three pictures of the Ma-donna which follow may with slight hesitation be considered as authentic. There is no doubt that Cimabue worked on the decorations of both the Upper and Lower Church of S. Francesco, Assisi, though most of the work is now too damaged to be fairly estimated.

The mosaics in the dome of the Cathedral of Pisa were made by Cimabue in 1302. He died soon after, and was buried in the Duomo of Florence.


Cartwright, 1-10. C. and C., ch. 6, 7. Gordon, Assisi, 149-167. Kugler, I, 79-83. Powers, M. M. A., ch. 3. Vasari, I, 1-14.


The Renaissance. Symonds, Age of Despots, ch. 1;

Fine Arts, ch. 1; Burckhardt, Part III, ch. 1. Mediaeval Florence, Guelph and Ghibelline. Hyett,

Florence, ch. 1–3; Gardner, Florence, 14 ff.


No. 49. Madonna Enthroned.

Academy, Florence.

Painted for the monks of Vallombrosa, then occupying the church of S. Trinità.

No. 50. Madonna Enthroned.

S. Maria Novella, Florence.

Known as the Rucellai Madonna, from the chapel in which it now is. Vasari tells the story of its being carried to the church with popular rejoicing such that the name of Borgo Allegri — the Joyous — was given to that quarter of the city. Certain recent critics, whose especial interests are Sienese rather than Florentine, have advanced arguments for ascribing this work to Duccio, dating it 1285. Such a work was ordered, but there is no evidence that the commission was fulfilled. It is inferior to the great altarpiece by Duccio, while the resemblances are rather those of the period than of the same artist. The evidence seems not yet sufficient to overthrow the tradition of five centuries.

Compare both these pictures with the mediæval examples, Nos. 45, 47, 48, noting resemblances and differences, and improvements of manner and spirit. A comparison of 49 and 50, while showing in both much of mannerism in the cast of features, the tip of the head, and the grouping of the angels, still suggests a greater endeavor in 50 to represent the actual appearance of a mantle of heavy material, and more of naturalness in the attitude of the Child. The throne is turned to admit something of perspective.

No. 51. Madonna with Angels and St. Francis.

Lower Church, S. Francesco, Assisi.

Fresco from the right transept of the Lower Church. The figure of St. Clara may have stood at the left, being destroyed when the chapel of S. Maria Maddalena was built. The ornamental border cuts off a portion of the angels’ wings, showing that some change has been made. The lack of symmetry as the picture stands is unusual.

The proportions of the figure of Madonna to the Saint and the angels are here normal, in contrast to 49 and 50. Consider the reasons for such a change.