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A Florentine painter active in the second half of the thirteenth century. He helped brighten the moribund Byzantine style then used in Italy, and led to the greater naturalism of his pupil Giotto. They and also Duccio worked together on the Franciscan basilica at Assisi (badly damaged in the recent earthquake).

His name was Cenni di Pepo, usually called Cimabuè, or Giovanni Cimabuè. His dates of birth and death are unknown: born around 1240 perhaps, his first mention in documents is 1272 and his last is 1302.

The younger Giotto overtook his master very quickly; Dante could write (in Purgatorio canto XI):

Once Cimabuè thought to hold the field
as painter; Giotto now is all the rage,
dimming the lustre of the other's fame.

Cimabuè’s “Madonna and Child Enthroned” was painted around 1285AD. During this time, art was heavily influenced by a Byzantine style. Cimabuè was born around 1251AD in Florence, Italy, which was one of the major cultural meccas for painters and artists. As artworks from other cultures were introduced and incorporated in the changing landscape of visual arts, this pushed noted artists to consider incorporating the styles into their own work. The Byzantine style was not particularly noted for incorporating depth into their works, but the following years, particularly the Renaissance movement which came afterwards, incorporated a more realistic third dimension to artwork through different techniques. 

The throne upon which the Madonna is seated shows an earlier attempt to incorporate some type of depth to the painting. Instead of blocked-off lines, Cimabuè included curves and texture to try to simulate the throne occupying space instead of just having it appear as a flat group of shapes. Indeed, by stacking the choirs of angels along the sides, and having them appear to be standing in a tiered position, it simulates a crude depth of field. Even the figures below the throne, depicting wise and learned men, demonstrate depth by hiding parts of the figures behind the patterned columns of the raised platform.

The figures in the painting, however, are very crude as far as depiction of the human figure. All of them have a very flat with a distorted appearance, particularly the angles of their necks. In fact, the strange angle makes many people think of face cards in a standard playing card deck. The people appear unnatural and posed in an unusual manner.

The colors are mainly browns and gold, attempting to elevate the subjects by making them appear above the typical viewer, particularly the lower classes of people. The divine natures of the angels and the Madonna, plus the baby St. John the Baptist, are depicted by the narrow halo around their heads.

Iron Noder 2017

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