The First Works Of Giotto

BOTH Ghiberti and Vasari tell us that Giotto’s first independent works were painted for the church of the Badia in Florence, and the latter writer dwells at length upon the powerful expressiveness of an Annunciation of the Virgin (evidently a fresco) in the chapel of the high-altar of that church. He also mentions a panel-picture on the high-altar itself, which was still to be seen in its original place in Vasari’s own day, it being kept there ” more on account of a certain reverence for the work of so great a man as Giotto, than for any other reason.”

These two paintings have, however, long since disappeared, and with them all traces of whatever other works Giotto may have executed in this city of his adoption during these earlier years of his career. It is not to Florence, therefore, but to Rome, that we must look for the first existing proofs of his activity as an independent master ; and we fortunately possess some slight yet precious documentary evidence regarding at least two of the various works which he is said to have carried out in this latter city during the pontificate of Boniface VIII.

According to existing notices preserved in the archives of the Vatican, we learn that Giotto received important commissions, during the last years of the thirteenth century, from Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani de’ Stefaneschi, nephew of Pope Boniface, and a prelate of no small influence in the clerical world of his day. The notices in question were first made public by Baldinucci, who came upon them in a work entitled ” Il Martirologio,” which quotes in turn the older authority of the ” Necrologium,” preserved in the same collection of archives. This ” Necrologium ” is an ancient record containing obituary notices of various prelates connected with the Vatican, who, in the course of their lives, had shown themselves to be special benefactors of the Church. Among them is a laudatory one concerning Cardinal Stefaneschi, who was to all appearances a warm lover and generous patron of the Fine Arts, and whose various artistic donations to the Church are here set forth at length. Together with other works which he caused to be executed for the embellishment of the basilica of St. Peter, two are distinctly mentioned as being by the hand of Giotto—a wooden ciborium or altar-piece, for the high-altar of the church, and a mosaic representing Christ saving St. Peter from the waves. According to this same notice, Giotto was paid 800 golden florins for the ciborium, and no less than 2,200 for the mosaic. The ” Necrologium ” does not state the exact date of either of these works, but the ” Martirologio” says definitely that the mosaic was commissioned and executed in the year 1298. Upon what exact authority this statement is made, we do not know, but we may accept it as being, in all probability, correct.

Both the works spoken of above still exist at the present day, although in such varying states of preservation as to render but one of them recognizable as the handiwork of the great Tuscan master. The mosaic of the ” Navicella “—as it has been known since the days of Giotto—may be seen over the outer entrance to the portico or atrium of St. Peter’s, but in so absolutely modernized a condition that nothing can be said to remain of the original beyond a general idea of its composition. The altar-piece, on the contrary, has fared less roughly, and though darkened by time and the smoke of countless ceremonies, and damaged by excessive ” cleanings,” it has fortunately escaped the far more ruinous effects of restoration and repaint. In it we possess the earliest authentic work left to us of the master’s genius—one affording us ample means for a perfect acquaintance with his earlier individual manner, and allowing us a secure basis for the critical comparison and chronological arrangement of his later works. Originally painted for the high-altar of San Pietro, it remained for many years in this honourable position, until the destruction of the older church finally necessitated its removal ; and it now hangs dismembered upon the walls of the Sagrestia dei Canonici—an almost for-gotten relic of the past, as far as the generality of the public is concerned.

In form, the triptych was not. unlike the “Gothic” altar-pieces of a later period, consisting of three principal panels, painted on both sides, connected and surmounted by the usual Gothic ornaments ; and a predella of six smaller panels, three on either side. With the exception of two of the latter, which have disappeared, all these component parts of the original work have been pre-served to the present day, and the reconstruction of the ciborium, as it stood in Giotto’s own time, would be an easy matter.

On one side of the central panel is painted the en-throned figure of Christ, surrounded by a double choir of angels. At the base of the throne kneels the donor Stefaneschi. On the reverse of the same panel sits St. Peter, holding in his hand his keys of office, and attended by two angels. In the foreground, to the left, St. George recommends the donor, who, clad in the dress of a deacon, holds out a model of the altar-piece itself. Opposite kneels a saint in bishop’s garb, holding in his outstretched hands what appears to be a missal ; behind him stands another in pontifical robes, also carrying a book—very possibly the cardinal’s namesakes, James and Gaetano.

The two side panels contain representations of the crucifixion of St. Peter and the decapitation of St. Paul. On their reverse are large full-length figures of SS. Andrew and John, James the Elder and Paul.

In the apex of these panels are medallions of God the Father and of various prophets and angels ; and along the lateral borders of the principal scenes, small figures of different saints.

In one of the four panels which remain of the predelle the Virgin is seated on a throne, holding the Divine Infant in her arms, attended by two angels, St. Peter and St. James. Each of the two accompanying pieces contains five full-length figures of Apostles. The fourth and last is occupied by half-lengths of SS. Peter, Stephen, and Bartholomew.

A single glance at this great altar-piece suffices to show us how far Giotto had already progressed, at this comparatively early period of his career, toward a full realization of his artistic ideals; and we feel a sudden consciousness of standing in the presence of a work that marks a new era in the history of painting, so entirely and absolutely is it at variance with all that the Middle Ages had hitherto been able to offer. In it we recognize the creation of a painter who has succeeded in entirely emancipating himself from the pictorial traditions of his contemporaries—one who has replaced the formal conventionality of the Italo-Byzantine schools with a style that is entirely new, having naught in common with the painting of the time. We might indeed imagine a period of centuries to have intervened between the two, so great and so pronounced are the differences that separate them. In character and expression, in colour and design, Giotto’s work differs essentially from all that has gone before it ; and the cold and stilted forms of the Latin and Byzantine painters seem to have undergone, at his hands, a strange and unaccountable transformation into shapes that appear at once to live and to move. What was merely representative and symbolic in the painting of the medieval schools, has suddenly given place to the expression of a living reality-what was emblematic and figurative in the one, has become actual and palpable in the other. Giotto’s Christ is no longer the conventional representation of a mere idea, but the living embodiment of a fact—his angels no mere reproductions of preconceived traditions, but rational conceptions of a glorified humanity. His Virgin is no longer the preternatural being that she had gradually become in Latin and Byzantine art, but the human Mother of her divinely human Son—his saints, no longer the formal apparitions of an earlier time, but living beings like ourselves. He has humanized the conventional conceptions of the older schools of painting, and imparted to his various figures such life-giving qualities of substance and expression as were only to be arrived at by a direct selection and imitation of natural and human forms. What was, to a great extent, mere pattern or design in so much of the work of the Latin and Byzantine artists, has become suddenly imbued by him with a sculptor’s sense of modelling and form—and it is this sense of the plastic in his figures that constitutes the predominant characteristic of Giotto’s art, as compared with that of his predecessors and contemporaries.

We might easily fill many pages with a lengthy dissertation upon these qualities of Form, and their relation to the painting of Giotto and of those who came before his time, but to do so would be mainly to repeat what has already been so well and clearly said by Mr. Berenson in his admirable little book on the Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. To quote Mr. Berenson’s own words, “painting is an art which aims at giving an abiding impression of artistic reality with only two dimensions. The painter must therefore do consciously what we all do unconsciously—construct his third dimension. And he can accomplish his task only as we accomplish ours by giving tactile values to retinal impressions. His first business therefore is to rouse the tactile sense. . . . It follows that the essential in the art of painting—as distinguished from the art of colouring—is somehow to stimulate our consciousness of tactile values, so that the picture shall have at least as much power as the object represented, to appeal to our tactile imagination. It was of this power to stimulate the tactile consciousness—of the essential, as I have ventured to call it, in the art of painting—that Giotto was supreme master.” Let us, therefore, keep well in mind, during all future examinations of Giotto’s works, the paramount importance of this great idea of Form—for we shall find it constantly apparent in every painting that ever left his hands.

Remembering these previous remarks) we may turn to a more careful examination of the different panels of the altarpiece, commencing with the central subject of the enthroned Christ. There is nothing in the general arrangement of this work that can be said to mark any really essential departure from similar compositions of the Italo-Byzantine school, and Giotto seems merely to have enlarged upon a motive that was already well known even before his day. With this general resemblance in distribution, however, all similarities between Giotto’s creation and those of his predecessors cease ; and if we turn our attention to the figures themselves, we note the presence of an absolutely new spirit both in their conception and execution. The grandly impressive figure of the Redeemer borders almost on severity in its majestic dignity of pose, but there is a calm benevolence in the expression of the face and in the quiet gesture of the hand upraised in benediction. The proportions of the body are just and noble, firmly modelled and care-fully defined beneath the drapery which falls in broad and heavy folds about the limbs, in such open contrast to the minute and oft-times unmeaning lines of the Byzantine artists. Already we recognize, in this splendid figure of Christ, the naturalistic qualities that give life to all of Giotto’s creations ; and yet, while investing it with all those human traits and features that bring it at once into such close sympathy with ourselves, the painter has never once lost sight of the solemn dignity proper to his divine subject. In the angels, again, we find the same development of form and broadness of drapery, as, in silent and expectant adoration, they stand or kneel on either side of their Master’s throne. Astonishingly true to life is the worshipping figure of the donor : a miracle —considering the period in which it was produced—of the portrait-painter’s art. In it we have one of the earliest efforts at naturalistic portraiture in the history of modern painting ; and to Giotto belongs, undoubtedly, the honour of reviving this long-dead branch of art, and of bringing it to a state of comparative perfection that was scarcely to be looked for, even in a genius as versatile as his. What he was capable of in this respect, we will have ample occasion to realize in our review of his later works.

If Giotto has given us a fine example of the life-giving qualities of his work in the above composition, he may be said to have excelled it in the enthroned figure of St. Peter on the reverse of the same panel, as well as in the four full-length saints in the two lateral wings. Here his sense of the plastic rises to a height but seldom surpassed, even in his later works, and, in their life-like properties of form and expression, these figures must remain among his finest creations. Nowhere could Mr. Berenson’s theory of ” tactile values ” be more correctly applied than in connection with these realistic master-pieces. In the firmness with which St. Peter sits upon his throne—in the wonderfully natural motion of the up-lifted hand—in the concentrated expression of the features —in the keen feeling for form, so perfectly expressed beneath the broad and simple drapery—we have a masterly example of Giotto’s powers, and one which even Masaccio, at a later period, could not easily have surpassed.

In the two representations of the Martyrdoms of St. Peter and of St. Paul, we have compositions less limited in extent and with subjects more suited to the dramatic tendencies of Giotto’s genius. To both, the painter has succeeded in imparting that same passionate life and energy of action so characteristic of his later work in other parts. A glance at the accompanying reproduction of the Crucifixion of St. Peter (Pl. i) will show the perfection to which Giotto had arrived at this early stage of his activity, in what was destined to be, apart from form and expression, the greatest characteristic of his art—his sense of composition and design. In the central fore-ground the figure of the martyred saint hangs head downwards on the cross. In the conformations of the nude body, there is apparent no slight knowledge of anatomical proportion, and the sense of suspended weight in the hanging figure is most skilfully expressed. Below, on either side of the cross, are grouped the other participants in the tragedy, closely resembling, in their general arrangement, the later Giottesque crucifixions of the Saviour. Both in regard to action and expression, each and all of these various figures are worthy of the most careful and attentive examination.

Less formal in its arrangement, and even more impressive in effect, is the accompanying representation of the martyrdom of St. Paul. To the left, shrouded in a white mantle, lies the headless body of the saint, mourned over by three of his followers in attitudes of the deepest grief. Behind stands a group of armoured foot-soldiers, resting on their spears. In the foreground, the executioner—a somewhat Byzantine figure—sheathes his bloody sword, and to the right a second company of soldiers on horse and foot are grouped, in a masterly manner, around another pyramid. The dipping outline of a hill, set off by a few scattered trees, cuts clear against the golden sky in the background ; and on the height to the left, the figure of a woman stands out in strange relief, her arms uplifted to receive a garment which the saint—whose spirit is being carried up by angels in a similar manner to that of St. Peter in the foregoing picture—casts down to her. An octagonal building with a conical roof crowns the summit on the opposite side, setting off the composition most effectively.

Nowhere, in all the art that had gone before, do we come upon paintings such as these, in which we can see the thoughts and feelings of the different actors so clearly mirrored in their movements and expression. In them Giotto has given us a perfect example of that deep psychological insight into human nature which is so remarkable a feature in all his work. What, in the art of his predecessors, had so often become a mere excess of violent passion and grimace, has here been replaced by a calmer, but a deeper, spirit of individual feeling and expression—none the less passionate, and infinitely more true.

In the Virgin and Christ-Child of the predella (Pl. 2), Giotto was afforded another opportunity for the assertion of his own naturalistic ideas as to the treatment of this most favourite of subjects. Although still preserving, to some degree, the hieratic dignity common to the usual Byzantine representations of the Madonna, Giotto has sought to express in her what was to him an equally sacred quality—the human dignity of motherhood ; and it is upon this more natural side of his conception that he has laid the greater stress. There is a tenderness of feeling and expression in her face and figure that is quite new to the painting of the time. In the little Infant Saviour, the painter has gone still further in his set fidelity to Nature ; his Christ-Child is no longer the supernatural and symbolic creation of earlier mediaeval art—a child in form, a mature being in expression an infantile embodiment of Divine Power and Justice—but a living and human babe, engaged in no further visible – outward occupation than that of sucking its thumb. No less natural, in sentiment and feeling, are the two stately angels that guard the throne with their heavenly presence—their eyes bent lovingly upon their infant Master, as they slowly swing their censers from side to side. To right and left, in two long rows, stand the Twelve Apostles, beginning with St. Peter and St. James—tall and earnest figures, finely characterized and felt, each of them stamped with an individuality entirely its own.

The beautiful gold border that divides them is most wonderfully figured, with a pattern that suggests the strange and mystic lettering of some long-forgotten language. The same sense of individuality which marks these Apostles, is to be found in the half-length figures in what was evidently the central panel of the predella, on the reverse of the altarpiece.

Great as were the changes here brought about by Giotto in the matter of form, composition, and expression, there remains still another most essential quality in his work in which the revolution he effected was no less startling or complete—the quality of colour. In this distinctive element of his art, as well as in those other qualities of form and of design, which we have spoken of above, the Stefaneschi altar-piece must be considered as the earliest of really modern paintings—a model to the centuries that followed, and even foreshadowing the creations of the great colourists of a later age. Only to those well acquainted with the work of the Latin and Byzantine artists before Giotto’s day, will it be possible fully to appreciate the real extent of the great and lasting change that Giotto carried out—alone and unassisted—in this direction ; and although, in his later works, his absorption in the problems of form and composition often caused him to neglect his early love of colour and of beauty, pure and simple, he never really be-came unconscious of the charm which these two qualities seem so strongly to have exercised over him during the earlier years of his career. Certainly nowhere in the list of all his works—with the possible exception of the earlier frescoes at Assisi—do we find a deeper love and enjoyment of pure colour, than that which Giotto shows us here. In the vivacity of tints and gaiety of combinations which illuminate this altar-piece, the painter seems fairly t6 revel in his new-found secret ; and yet, with all this feast of colour, there is combined a sense of temperance and measure characteristic of the artist, and there is naught that is meaningless or inharmonious throughout the whole. Centuries have been unable to dim the brightness of his work, and it remains until to-day an unsurpassed delight among the panel-pictures of the years that followed after.

Still again, in the matter of draughtsmanship and technical execution, the work shows an immense advance over the best Byzantine paintings of the time, and gives us already an idea of that conscientious and painstaking spirit which marks every genuine creation of Giotto’s brush. In it we find the exquisite delicacy of the miniaturist coupled with the largeness and strength of one accustomed to work of a broader kind ; there is a minuteness of finish to each part that clearly indicates the amount of care and patience lavished upon it by the painter ; and in the comparative security and command of line, Giotto shows us that, even at this early period, he was by no means so entirely lacking in his powers as a draughtsman as many modern critics would lead us to believe.

The relative perfection of workmanship evinced by this painting, as well as its dignity of conception, certainly betoken the work of a painter who had already arrived at a comparative maturity of style, and leave no possible doubt that it must have been preceded, either here at Rome or elsewhere, by other independent works of no slight merit or importance. Nevertheless, to the best of our knowledge, as we have said before, no such works have been spared us to the present day—or if any such do happen to exist, as so many critics and historians believe, we must confess our inability to recognize in them the handiwork of the Giotto whom we know ; and we must turn to Assisi—not to the Upper but the Lower Church of San Francesco—for a continuation of that style with which we have already become acquainted in the Stefaneschi altar-piece. Before leaving the scene of Giotto’s labours at Rome, however, we may devote our attention to the other of the two commissions which we know him to have received from his patron, Cardinal Stefaneschi ; and to a rapid consideration of such other works as he is said to have undertaken during his visits to the capital.

In a very different state of preservation from the altar-piece is the mosaic of the “Navicella.” From Giotto’s time to the present day, this work, so extolled by writers and historians, has undergone such frequent and repeated restoration as to be reduced to a mere caricature of its former self. Fortunately, we are in the possession of two works from which we may draw a better idea of the original appearance of Giotto’s famous mosaic than is possible from a study of the mere wreck that now re-mains. The first of these is a cartoon preserved in the church of Sta. Maria dei Cappuccini—said to have been made from the mosaic itself some twenty years after its first recorded restoration in 1617; the second, a fresco on the ceiling of the Spanish chapel in Sta. Maria Novella at Florence, is evidently a free but close copy of Giotto’s original, painted either during the master’s lifetime, or soon after his death, by some one or other of his pupils.

In both cases the composition is—allowing for differences of space—almost identical in its main features.

Giotto has had before his mind, in the representation of his subject, the words of the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew, and has seized upon the most dramatic moment in the miraculous episode on the Sea of Galilee. In the central background the ship of the Apostles tosses unevenly upon the storm-driven sea, its sails swollen before the wind and thrown out against the lowering sky, the rigging stretched to its utmost tautness. The Apostles themselves crowd the boat in various attitudes of fear and in wonder at the apparition of their Lord, Who stands before us, to the right, a grandly impressive figure, calm and majestic, His right hand held out to the sinking Peter, who struggles in the waves near by. On a rock in the foreground opposite kneels the figure of a man, engaged in the peaceful occupation of fishing with a rod and line, apparently unconscious of the scene that is being enacted about him. In the clouds above, two weird beings, evidently representing the genii of the winds—strangely reminiscent of the classic and early Christian art of a period long past—add to the fury of the elements. In the mosaic itself, a diminutive half-length figure of a worshipping cardinal—to all appearance a portrait of the donor—fills the lower corner to the extreme right.

Although it is impossible to judge of the exact extent of the changes and alterations undergone by the mosaic previous to the time in which the cartoon was executed, we may nevertheless arrive, through a careful study of this drawing and of the fresco at Florence, at an approximate idea of the original appearance of what once must have been a masterpiece that claimed the attention of every artistic visitor to Rome ; and it is easy to imagine the effect which such a work must certainly have produced upon the artists of the time.’ Unfortunately, we can go no further in our appreciation of the merits of the original work, or in the formation of any definite idea as to the exact development of Giotto’s style at this period of his career.

If we may accept the authority of the ” Martirologio in placing the date of the mosaic at 1298, certain reasons appear to us sufficiently weighty in themselves to con-firm our opinion that the Stefaneschi altar-piece was painted considerably before that time. The oft-repeated statement of critics and historians alike, that the latter work was commissioned and executed in the same year as was the “Navicella,” is due purely to a careless reading of the notices already mentioned ; and it is hardly to be believed that the master could have carried out all the vast quantity of work which we know to be his in San Francesco at Assisi—together with the other commissions which he undoubtedly received in Rome, Florence, and elsewhere—within the comparatively short period of time between 1298 and the probable date of his journey to Padua, in or about 1306. We know that Stefaneschi was created Cardinal and Canon of St. Peter’s, as early as 1295, and there is no reason against our own supposition that the commission for the altarpiece may have dated from that time, or from the year following ; certainly such a supposition is far more in accordance with a purely critical chronological arrangement of Giotto’s works, than is the acceptance of the traditional date of 1298.

It is impossible to ascertain the real extent of Giotto’s artistic activity in Rome during the closing years of the thirteenth century, or the precise number and duration of his visits to that city. Probabilities are certainly in favour of his having undertaken other commissions than those which we have already spoken of as having been given him by Cardinal Stefaneschi, and it is hardly likely that Pope Boniface and his court would have allowed a man of his exceptional gifts to depart without exacting from him a promise to return. Certain it is that internal evidence points to more than one visit paid by the painter to the Eternal City at this period.

Vasari, partly on the earlier authority of Ghiberti, gives us to understand that, in addition to the two works already mentioned, Giotto painted five scenes from the life of Christ, in the tribune of St. Peter’s, and various other works in different parts of the same church, among them being an angel seven braccia high, which evidently stood over the organ of the later church in Vasari’s own day. Again, the same writer specially mentions a Crucifix painted for the church of Sta. Maria sopra Minerva. Whether Giotto in reality executed these works, we cannot say, as not a trace of them remains. Tradition further has it that he painted for his patron Stefaneschi, in San Giorgio in Velabro, of which church that prelate was titular cardinal and deacon; but the ruined frescoes in the apse of that building, although defying criticism in their present state, can hardly be said to have been conceived in the spirit of Giotto’s known manner.

Strange to say, neither Ghiberti nor Vasari makes any mention of a work which, if we may judge by the one repainted fragment that has been spared to us of the original, was undoubtedly an important creation of the master’s hand—the only one of his Roman works, beside the ” Navicella ” and the altarpiece of St. Peter’s, a trace of which has been handed down to us. We allude to the much damaged fresco representing the Proclamation of the Jubilee by Boniface VIII., now immured in one of the pilasters in the nave of the Lateran Basilica. This fragment was once part of a far more extensive work which stood in the loggia of the old basilica of the Lateran, one of three paintings—all probably by Giotto—ordered by the Pope in commemoration of the Jubilee instituted by him in the year 1300. Writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tell us that the two lateral frescoes had for their subjects, the Baptism of Constantine, and the Building of the Lateran Church. Of these two works, no further descriptions have come down to us in any form, but of the subject and composition of the principal fresco we may derive a fairly correct idea from an ancient drawing in the Ambrosian Library at Milan.’ This drawing, which seems undoubtedly authentic, appears to have been copied from the original fresco ; and, although we cannot look for any resemblance in the matter of technical detail and qualities of style, the copyist seems to have faithfully represented the general arrangement of Giotto’s work. In the drawing we see Pope Boniface standing in the balcony of the loggia, accompanied by two attend-ants in precisely the same attitudes as depicted in the remnant of fresco still preserved to us. The figure to the Pope’s left reads from a scroll, upon which are to be seen the words : ” Bonifacius ep. servus servorum Dei ad perpetuam rei memoriam.” To right and left of the balcony are ranged the cardinals and other members of the papal court. Below, a group of citizens on horse and foot are gathered about the three tall columns which support the loggia and its balcony. All in all, the composition is well and symmetrically arranged and Giotto seems to have succeeded, as usual, in endowing a subject that was in itself of no particular dramatic interest, with that variety and life imparted by him to all his works.

Covered, as it is, by successive coats of repaint, and altered almost beyond all recognition, the damage it has received has not been sufficient to deprive the fresco in the Lateran of its original qualities of form and expression ; and it still bears unmistakable signs of Giotto’s style. Through this ruined fragment we can yet form some idea of what was probably the last work painted by Giotto in the Eternal City ; for, although we know him to have passed through Rome on more than one occasion during a later period of his life, no further records exist of his activity in that capital. The Rome to which he returned was no longer the great city of his youth—no longer the seat of the Papacy nor the proud centre of Italian art ; Avignon had replaced her in the first of these positions—Florence in the second.

If we may trust the sources of information alluded to above, the frescoes in the Lateran loggia originally bore the inscription : ” Dominus Bonifacius Papa VIII. fecit totum opus praesentis thalami. Anno Domini MCCC.” This would lead us to suspect the presence of Giotto in Rome during at least a part of that most memorable year. Vasari tells us that during his stay in the Eternal City, he made the acquaintance of the celebrated miniaturist, Oderigi da Gubbio, and his no less celebrated rival, Franco Bolognese, as well as of Pietro Cavallini, one of the most famous Roman painters of the day, who is said to have assisted Giotto in the execution of the “Navicella” and of other of his works, and to have been among the first to adopt the master’s manner as his own. No doubt, in this respect, Cavallini was not alone ; and we can easily imagine that Giotto’s circle of acquaintances; at this stage of his career, was a far wider one than that spoken of by Vasari, and that there were few celebrities in the art world of the day with whom he did not come more or less closely into personal contact. Among the-deeper and more lasting friendships, however, which he may possibly have contracted or cemented in the papal city, during this year of Jubilee, was that lifelong one with Dante Alighieri, whom we know to have been there present on an embassy from Florence. Whether Giotto had made the acquaintance of the famous poet during earlier years, we do not know, but certainly here at Rome, ties of country and of taste, and the sympathy of two great minds, would have brought them into a closer intimacy than before.

Numerous must have been the commissions poured in upon Giotto as his fame increased and spread—for that such fame was his, the very importance of the works undertaken by him at Rome is in itself sufficient proof; and it was but in the course of natural events that the young artist should have been early called upon to measure his powers against the older painters of his day, in that great arena of mediaeval art, the church of San Francesco at Assisi. And it is here, rather than at Rome, that we shall find unfolded before our eyes the history of the real development of his style.