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Cimabue, Santa Trinita Madonna & Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna

Video transcript

[Music] so we were going to do a comparison of two great proto Renaissance masters jammu Bowie and Giotto and compare them by looking at two paintings to the Madonna and throne so exactly the same subject these are both in the feet see in florence but originally of course there were altar paintings panels which are very large in fact that the chamber way is what's up yeah it's twelve feet tall it's huge and that was so that it could be seen the full distance of the church nave and the Giotto two is more than ten feet high the Chima boy is a little earlier and Gemma GUI is the very first artist that Vasari talks about at the very beginning of this incredible tradition painting such memories really seem to make this first step away from a medieval style toward a more human focused Renaissance style yeah and there's a lot of controversy and interest in terms of why the Renaissance has its roots at this particular moment in this particular place in why in florence and why right here at the end of the thirteenth century and one of the theories that's been put forward is pressure that was being felt in the byzantine empire to the east by islam and some of the artists perhaps fleeing the great traditions of the east and coming to italy and perhaps prompting it to think beyond the traditions of the medieval the first thing to say is that this is just a really standard subject that we see all the time mary the mother of christ holding the Christ child surrounded by angels and/or saints and prophets lots and lots of gold these are tempera paintings on wooden panels it's egg tempera and it's using minerals that are suspended in that egg media it's good for little lines it doesn't blend well it dries quickly and so there's a really linear aspect to this painting which may in some respects result from the tempera this is gold that's been flattened out ordinary things oblique and in fact even tooled that is to say patterns have been pounded in to make it easy and then it finished glued on to the wooden pen it's been burnished and sometimes it's a kind of clay layer underneath which you can sometimes see a little reddish but the gold itself is really meant is this ornamental reflective material that had a symbolic quality and then it was meant to reflect the light of heaven neither of these are set in any kind of earthly realm flat gold background indicates a kind of divine heavenly space for these figures occupy and that makes sense when you look at the Chima boy because the Madonna for instance she's so I guess maybe because she's defined by line if she stood up you know she would be so tall she would be very elongated and her drapery is defined by line primarily and not as much by modeling from light to dark although a little bit there are some distinct medieval or Byzantine elements that are still visible here her fingers are very long her mouth is very small the nose is very long kind of symbolism of the body not a representation of a real person so much as a representation of a kind of ideal heavenly form the angels are all stacked kind of on top it's a good thing their plans isn't it yes because what am i standing on I don't know but we do begin to get some sense of the beginnings of an illusion of space little Tim avoid she's got a little modeling under her chin and you're right that the throne on which she sits does sort of recede except here's the funny thing when you look at the throne carefully it looks as if we're looking across at the Virgin Mary but we're looking down at the seat on which she's seated and in some ways we're also looking up at her there's not a single perspective a point in which the viewer is situated we have served multiple viewpoints and that's something that of course will disappear more than a century later when we get to Brunelleschi in the early Renaissance but I'm not comfortable with the idea that Shiva Bowie couldn't do it no so what about the four figures underneath it's interesting that they're behind there this shows some illusion of does of stage they kind of frames them as well does and they're adorable down there those prophets oh you can always tell the prophets because they're holding Scrolls okay so these are Old Testament prophets right who would have predicted the coming of a messiah Christ and here in the Catholic tradition of course that would have been understood as Christ is that right let's look over now at the dotto because things have really changed Madonna just looks so massive and bulky and look at how her hips and her thighs cover that her knee projects ofoh around yeah with her breasts and look at how differently the drapery is indicated instead of by these the gold straight lines right we now have real modeling from light to dark to indicate her knees laughs and even how the drapery pulls across her chest and her breasts the back of the Chima boy now the Madonna looks so thin almost as if she's a paper cutout and the job will look so substantial so solid it's also interesting if you compare the Angels because in the Chima boo in the earlier painting the angels are stacked up they don't sort of respond to gravity and they're also all very similar they're sort of an idealized face but if you look at the angels in the Giotto rendering from from a few decades later actually what's really interesting is Jonna was willing to put the Angels in back of each other even obscuring their faces and the way that they sort of seem to go back behind the throne peeking his head through in the back there and yeah the prophets aren't in some sort of impossible basement now I look at how much more modeling is in her face and in her neck there's one aspect of the painting by Giotto that I think is really significant and really interesting in the Giotto there's a very particular single point that the viewer is looking at this from if you look for instance at the steps moving up to the Virgin you're looking down at the top of the step clearly so you know your eyes above that but you're also looking up at the ceiling of the throne so you're looking at so yeah so you're somewhere in between and in fact you're looking down at the seat but you'll notice that just where the prophets Chin's are that's where everything sort of is exactly horizontal right so that's the line at which our height and that makes sense because that would put us just below Christ a nice humble position is it kind of left-right access to which is to say that I think we can see a little bit more the right window so I think we're facing Christ this begins to situate the viewer this is not linear perspective it's kind of a more awareness of the human presence in front of the paint I think that's exactly right you know one of the things that I like to think about is how similar these two images are despite their differences and the ways in which the understanding of originality was so entirely different than in our own culture right so this is not so much derivative in a negative sense as we might think in fact there was a real tradition of the ways that you represent these figures because these are holy figures that make sense and also this is very Universal this is something that made sense it's it should sense time with transcend space rights but even within that Giada was still creating this new image because obviously things are beginning to change in the early 1300s so he must be responding to cultural changes that is putting an emphasis on the here and now and in a way men right that will of course blossom into the Renaissance exactly [Music]