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Giotto di Bondone, Scrovegni Chapel (1303-1305)

Musei Civici agli Eremitani, Padua

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Author: Giotto da Bondone
Dating: 1303-1305
Technique: frescoes
Location: Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

The Scrovegni Chapel guards one of the most important and better preserved Italian frescoes’ cycles, whose renewed magnificence can now be appreciated thanks to the extremely important restoration completed in 2002.
The client of the work was Enrico Scrovegni who, in the 14th Century bought the land around the Roman Arena to build his rich palace. Enrico ordered the construction of the Chapel dedicated to Santa Maria della Carità in memory of his father Reginaldo, numbered by Dante among the usurers of his Inferno. The Chapel was dedicated on March 25, 1303, a very important date and full of symbolic references: in fact, March 25 is the Annunciation Day which in the Chapel is stately depicted on the big apsidal arch. On this day, two years later (1305), the church is solemnly consecrated. From an architectural point of view, the Chapel is made by a large rectangular plan, covered by a barrel vault and illuminated by six windows opening on the southern wall and by the big triple lanced window of the counter-façade. The pentagonal vault of the apse, where you can admire the Madonna with the Child of Giovanni Pisano, hosts, behind the altar, the sepulchre of Enrico Scrovegni.
The pictorial decoration of the nave is completely commissioned to Giotto, who is helped by several collaborators, while the frescoes of the presbytery are a work of the Master of the Scrovegni choir.
About 400 eight-pointed gold stars shine in the large lapislazuli blue sky of the vault: as the stars for sailors, so Christ-sun and Mary-moon are the reference points in the mankind life, together with eight prophets represented in the vault with smaller tondos. The big History of Salvation, whose centre is the Incarnation of Christ, depicted on the triumphal big arch, unwinds along 38 panels located on three registers. Starting from the top, with a descendent, spiral reading, there are the Stories of Joachim to Anne, and of the childhood of the Virgin, the stories of Christ’s life in the middle part, and in the lower register, the Stories of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. In the lower part Giotto makes a fake-marble decoration, portraying, as if they were statues, the theological and cardinal virtues (south wall) contrasting the Seven Capital Vices painted on the northern wall. According to tradition, the counter-façade is dedicated to the depiction of the Last Judgment: Christ as the judge in the centre of the wall, calls to him the blessed souls (among whom several characters contemporary of Giotto are recognisable), while on the other side Lucifer welcomes the damned souls doomed to be eternally tortured, as described in Dante’s Divina Commedia.

Photo Shoot

Area: 700 mq
Hard disk space: more than 1 terabyte
Number of shots: 14.000
Shooting : 200 hours of nocturnal shooting
Shots: from 16 november to 2 december 2008

Camera: Nikon D3 and Nikon D3X
Acquisition Software Nikon Camera Control Pro 2
Postprocessing Software: Nikon Capture NX 2


Courtesy by Comune di Padova - Direzione Musei

Musei Civici agli Eremitani

All rights reserved

Giotto di Bondone (Florence 1267 - 1337)

The site of the Scrovegni Chapel represents a turning point in the pictorial path of Giotto.
At the beginning of his work, after the first contacts with Cimabue, Arnolfo di Cambio, and the Roman artistic culture, Giotto participates in the decoration of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi: in particular, the critics have identified in the Stories of Isaac on the Nave of the Upper Basilica, the first personal and independent intervention of Giotto.
However, it is in the Stories of Saint Francis painted in the lower part of the nave, where Giotto imposed himself as an independent and famous artist.
Giotto worked on the Franciscan Stories between 1288 – when Niccolò IV ascended to the papal throne, the first pope from the Franciscan Order – and 1297. Thanks to the success gained in Assisi, he was commissioned important works in Rome, by Pope Boniface VIII, as well as in Florence, where his presence is documented in 1301. Those are the years of the Crucifix in Santa Maria Novella, of the Polittico di Badia at the Uffizi gallery, of the Crucifix in the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini: in these works, he enhances the use of colours, chiaroscuro, volumes of the figures in relation to the space, improving his already innovative language tested in Assisi.
The peak of this path is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Giotto worked at it between 1303 and 1305, and the critics quite agree on ascribing to the Master the conceiving of the composition of the structure, as well as the frescoes that cover the whole surface of the chapel. During this decorative campaign, Giotto also painted the wood panel with God The father on the Throne, set in the big arch of the Chapel, and the wooden Cross, which are currently located in the Museo degli Eremitani.
Upon completion of this work, he returned to Assisi, where he painted the frescoes of the Maddalena Chapel in the Lower Basilica, before going to Rome (around 1311) where he worked on the mosaic portraying the Navicella degli Apostoli (The Apostoles' small ship) in the atrium of the Basilica of Saint Peter.
In the following years, Giotto was invited at the most important Italian courts and families: to Naples, at the Angevine Court, and to Milan, where he worked for Azzone Visconti.
The last big frescoes executed by the Master are in Florence in the Basilica di Santa Croce: the Life Episodes of Saint John the Evangelist and of Saint John the Baptist in Cappella Peruzzi, and the Life Episodes of Saint Francis on the walls of Cappella Bardi.
In his last years, Giotto even ventured on the design of the Campanile of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, whose construction began in 1334, three years before he died.