Giotto di Bondone

Frescoes of the Upper Church at Assisi

Legend of Saint Francis
        The Expulsion of the Demons from Arezzo

The Madonna of San Giorgio alla Costa

The Crucifix in Santa Maria Novella

The Scrovegni Chapel

       Scenes from the Life of Christ

       Resurrection (Noli me tangere)

       Last Judgment

Ognissanti Madonna

Peruzzi and Bardi Chapels at Santa Croce

       Frescoes in the Bardi Chapel

       Frescoes in the Peruzzi Chapel

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists | Giotto di Bondone



Giotto, Last Judgment in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua


"Beauty is what we can just barely endure at the edge of terror and we admire it so much because, unmoved, it deigns not to destroy us."

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)


Giotto di Bondone | Last Judgment in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua

There can be no doubt whatsoever about Giotto's artistic stature and historical importance. Indeed, he so dominated the Florentine Trecento through his collaborators and followers, from Taddeo Gaddi onwards, that there was until relatively recently a thoroughly misleading tendency to lump together almost every artist in sight under the somewhat derogatory title of 'Giotteschi'. On the other hand, almost everything else about Giotto's career is problematic. His cut down mosaic of the Navicella (c. 1300) in Rome, which was for his contemporaries by far his most important work, is now a ghostly echo of its former self. His signed altarpieces, the Stigmatization of St Francis (Paris, Louvre), the Baroncelli Altarpiece (Florence, Santa Croce) and the polyptych of the Madonna and Saints (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale), seem to be very largely shop work protected by his signature. However, the Ognissanti Madonna (Florence, Uffizi) is universally accepted as his although it is neither signed nor documented. Other works with a good claim to be considered as his include the Dormition of the Virgin (Berlin) and a Crucifix in Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

The frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua have always been considered as Giotto's first mature masterpiece, and at the same time as an important milestone in the development of western painting.
The frescoes in the Arena Chapel, Padua (c. 1304-13), depict scenes from the lives of St Joachim and St Anne and the Virgin, and from the Life and Passion of Christ. These frescoes, the masterpiece on which the whole modern concept of his style is based, are unsigned and undocumented, as are those in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels (Life of St Francis and Lives of Sts John Baptist and Evangelist) in Santa Croce, which are generally accepted as the only reasonable foundation for an idea of his stylistic evolution during his maturity.

All this, however, is as nothing to the endless controversy which surrounds his date of birth and the attribution to him of the frescoes of the Life of St Francis, painted, probably in the mid-1290s, on the lower walls of the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi.

Enrico Scrovegni of Padua, ambitious son of the rich Reginaldo, whom Dante Alighieri had consigned to hell as a usurer in his "Divine Comedy", was planning to build a palace and a private chapel. To this end, in the year 1300, he purchased a large piece of land in the area around the Roman amphitheatre - known as the Arena. Of these impressive buildings, only the single-nave church remains. Constructed using clear, simple forms, it is referred to mostly as the "Arena Chapel" after its location, or as the "Scrovegni Chapel" after its donor. The redemption of his father and the saving of his own soul were his foremost considerations when making this donation. The church was therefore dedicated on 16 March 1305 to Saint Mary of Charity.

Today, it is Giotto's frescoes in the interior of the chapel which reflect the honour of the donor most of all, and it is the fact that he is portrayed on the side of the Blessed at the Last Judgment that has recorded his face for posterity.

This extensive depiction of the Last Judgment in the west of the church is dominated by the large Christ in Majesty at its centre. The twelve apostles sit to His left and to His right. Here the two levels divide: the heavenly host appears above, people plunge into the maw of hell below, or are led by angels towards heaven.

The way this large fresco is divided into registers is traditional. But if we look at Giotto's invention in detail, then his novel attempts at visualizing different spheres, as well as abstract beliefs, become particularly apparent. In the center of the representation, Christ is enthroned as supreme Judge in a rainbow-colored mandorla. The deep, radiant gold background, the style of painting, and the delicate substance give the impression that the heavens have opened in order to reveal the powerful, extremely solidly modelled figure of Christ. Different levels are likewise alluded to when the choirs of angels disappear behind the real window, or when the celestial watch in the upper area of the picture rolls back the firmament, behind which the golden-red doors of the heavenly Jerusalem shine forth. The black and red maw of hell, which seems to anticipate Dante's "Inferno", is different again in its impact.

The way in which Giotto establishes a connection between the present-day world of the faithful and the world beyond all time, the world of the Last Judgment, contains another interesting detail. The donor Scrovegni, still alive at the time, kneels next to those being resurrected and offers "his" church to the three Marys, assisted by a priest. The latter is portrayed in a most lively manner: his robes hang - painted quite illusionistically - over the arch of the portal.


Giotto, Last Judgment in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua
Last Judgment

The Prince of Hell, a giant monster, is enthroned on a dragon. He grabs the damned and eats them. The torments of the naked people, which are being administered by shadowy creatures, are depicted in great detail.    
Giotto, Last Judgment (details) in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua

Images of Giotto di Bondone, Last Judgment

Art in Tuscany | Italian Renaissance painting

Art in Tuscany | Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects| Giotto

Comune di Padova | Cappella degli Scrovegni

Sito ufficiale |

Tour virtuale della Cappella degli Scrovegni | Riproduzione digitale in alta definizione degli affreschi di Giotto agli Scrovegni

Giotto. Cappella Scrovegni. Il Restauro | The restauration | pdf |

This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia article Giotto and Scrovegni Chapel published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Wikimedia Commons contiene file multimediali su Giotto.

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The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua


The Scrovegni Chapel, dedicated to St. Mary of the Charity, frescoed between 1303 and 1305 by Giotto, upon the commission of Enrico degli Scrovegni, is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art. The frescoes, which narrate events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ, cover the entire walls. On the wall opposite the altar is the grandiose Universal Judgement, which concludes the story of human salvation.
The chapel was originally attached to the Scrovegni family palace, built after 1300, following the elliptical outline of the remains of the Roman arena.
The Chapel was acquired by the City of Padova in1880, and the vulnerable frescoes were subjected to several specialized restoration operations during the 19th and 20th centuries. From the 1970s until today, thanks to close collaboration between the city administration, cultural heritage authorities and the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, the state of the building, the quality of the air in it, polluting factors, and the state of conservation of the frescoes themselves have all been subjected to careful study and monitoring. The addition of the new access building, with its special air-conditioned waiting-room, means that even great influxes of visitors can enter the Chapel and admire Giotto's masterpiece without further jeopardizing its fragile condition in any way.

In 1300, the wealthy Paduan merchant Enrico Scrovegni bought a piece of land on the site of a former Roman arena. Included in the palace that he built on the site was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Annunciation, Santa Maria Annunziata, and the Virgin of Charity, Santa Maria del Carità.
The family wealth had been amassed by Enrico's father, Reginaldo, whom Dante singled out as the arch usurer in his Inferno. Usury, the lending of money for profit, was considered a sin during the Middle Ages. It is likely that Enrico constructed the chapel as a means to expiate the father's sin. The dedication of the Chapel to the Virgin of Charity, referred to in a document of March of 1304 in which Pope Benedict XI granted indulgences to those who visited "Santa Maria del Carità de Arena," was an obvious choice to disassociate the family from taint of greed and miserliness.

The size and splendor of the Arena Chapel offended the monks of the neighboring Eremitani Church, who lodged a complaint before the Episcopal Curia in Padua. We, thus, can see the Arena Chapel as both a token of Enrico Scrovegni's piety and his contrition for the sins of his father and also as a symbol of his family's status as wealthy merchants who are emulating the aristocracy with the lavish palace and private family chapel. Enrico Scrovegni's seeming conflicting motivations in commissioning the Arena Chapel is brought out in the following passage:

"Among the factors that relate specifically to Enrico Scrovegni are a possible desire to expiate his father's usury and at the same time to make his own expenditure conspicuous; an ambition for status combined with a fear of damnation; a desire, on the one hand, to be regarded as an ascetic devoted to the cult of the Virgin, and, on the other, to secure for himself a fitting property to serve as his personal monument
[ Source: Diana Norman, Siena, Florence, and Padua: Art, Society and Religion 1280-1400, Volume II: Case Studies, p. 92."]

Scrovegni Chapel
Piazza Eremitani, 8
35121 Padua, Italy

The Scrovegni Chapel is open from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. all year round
Evening visits: from March 1st, 2011. Evening visits don't take place on non-holiday Mondays.
All evening visits from 19.00 to 22.00
20 - Minute daytime visits are available in January, February, from 16th to 30th June, July, November and from 16th to 31th December.

On-line reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
Information on Ticket Reservation |

The Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua


Enrico Scrovegni is shown in the fresco of the Last Judgement presenting a model of the chapel to the Virgin: the nobleman offers the three Marys the church that he has donated. He is supported in this by a cleric, whose robe hangs over the real architecture. Giotto is attempting, by means of this illusionistic element and the portrait-like depiction of the donor, a realism which will draw the viewers into the picture.