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Giotto Bondone: The Lamentation of the Death of Christ

Updated on April 5, 2013
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Lamentation of the Death of Christ

Lamentation of the Death of Christ is a High Middle Ages fresco painting by Italian painter Giotto di Bondone. The painting depicts the body of Christ, Christ's supporters, and the Angels in heaven after he had been crucified.

Giotto's fresco is actually one scene of thirty-seven scenes painted for the Scrovegni Chapel (also called Arena Chapel) that emphasize the Virgin Mary. Completed in 1305 The Scrovegni Chapel frescoes are considered the magnum opus of Giotto's storied career.

In this series of frescoes, and particularly in the Lamentation of the Death of Christ, Giotto is able to convey more detailed emotions through the facial expressions of Christ's supporters and the body movements of the Angels. This fresco would influence Giotto's later paintings and would also be an important influential work for the painters during the Italian Renaissance.

Giotto di Bondone

Giotto di Bondone was born in Vespignano Italy in 1270. Very little is known about Giotto's early life, and a lot of the information comes from Giorgio Vasari who wrote a series of biographies on a wide number of Renaissance and Early Renaissance artists. The credability of Vasari's biographies are debated, but they remain the only contemporary source on a lot of the events of Giotto's life.

According to Vasari, Giotto became an apprentice for Cimabue, one of the top painters of the day, in order to learn painting. Giotto was believed to have followed Cimabue to his commissions first in Rome and then in Assisi.

At Assisi Cimabue was commissioned to paint a number of large frescoes and Giotto was there to help him paint some of the frescoes. It was at Assisi that Giotto would learn about fresco painting which would provide the knowledge for him to paint the Scrovegni Chapel.

Lamentation of the Death of Christ

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Fresco Info

Painter
Giotto di Bondone
Painting
Lamentation of the Death of Christ
Region
Papua Italy
Year Painted
1303-1305
Art Movement
High Middle Ages/Early Renaissance
Type of Painting
Fresco
Dimensions
185x200cm
On Display
Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padua Italy

A Closer Look at the Fresco

The painting depicts profound sadness as Christ has just met his violent end, and his supporters are mourning his passing. Besides Christ, the only two discernible people in the painting are the Virgin Mary who is holding Christ's head, and Mary Magdalene who is by Christ's feet.

Giotto uses golden halos to bring out the faces of Christ's supporters and the Angels in heaven. All of the expressions of Christ's supporters are shown in a subtle, tender, and very humanistic way, while the expressions of the Angels faces are very dramatic. To heighten the dramatic facial expression in the Angels, some of the contours of their bodies are placed in positions associated with grief or in jagged positions to indicate pain.

The positioning of a lot of the people crouching on the ground symbolizes the earthliness of the event and the human relationship with earth. The angels flying in the sky help to symbolize the ascent to Heaven and the divine.

The juxtaposition of the subtle grief shown by the humans, and the more dramatic grief of the divine is divided diagonally by the cliff in the background. This cliff leads directly down to the face of Christ and at the top is dead tree. The cliff connects the tree and Christ in death, while simultaneously separating the emotional reactions of the Angels and Christ's supporters, or the reactions from Heaven and Earth.

Scrovegni Chapel

The location of Giotto's Frescos.
The location of Giotto's Frescos. | Source

Giotto's Influence

Giotto is able to showcase a variety of skills as a painter in this fresco and in the others painted at the Scrovegni Chapel. He is able to differentiate the divine from the human and he is able to convey a great amount of emotion all within the same scene.

The natural looking expressions on the faces of the Earthly people was not common during this time. This painting is highly symbolic, and its three dimensional setting helps to make this fresco an important work leading into the Early Renaissance.

Giotto's legacy today is that he is the first in a line of great Italian artists that would make up the Italian Renaissance. The frescoes at Scrovegni Chapel were paramount to Giotto achieving his legacy.

Additional Information About Medieval and Early Renaissance Paintings

Rogier Van Der Weyden: Descent From The Cross

This article focuses on the Flemish painter's life and arguably his most famous painting Descent From The Cross. Van Der Weyden pays tribute to the crossbow guild that commissioned him in the painting by featuring several hidden crossbow images.

Sandro Boticelli: Primavera

One of the most popular paintings in western art, Primavera, is still one of the most widely debated paintings today. Boticelli paid great attention to detail in his work, which is evidenced by the over 500 identified different plant species in this painting.

Hugo Van Der Goes: Portinari Altarpiece

The Portinari Altarpiece is an Early Renaissance painting by Flemish painter Hugo Van Der Goes. The painting depicts a Nativity scene focusing on the Adoration of the Shepherds on three panels.

Jan van Eyck: The Arnolfini Portrait

The Arnolfini is one world's earliest oil paintings and is arguably one of the earliest examples of a genre painting. With this painting Jan van Eyck helped to encourage the trend to make more realistic looking paintings.

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    • Music-and-Art-45 profile imageAUTHOR

      Music-and-Art-45 

      5 years ago from USA, Illinois

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting nArchuleta, glad to hear the article was helpful.

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 

      5 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      A very informative article. I like that you even delved into his influence as well as a small biography of the artist. The table gives the pertinent information (I think I'm going to go add one to my Hub now, actually!) Thanks for sharing!

    • Music-and-Art-45 profile imageAUTHOR

      Music-and-Art-45 

      5 years ago from USA, Illinois

      Hello Vanderleelie thanks for stopping by and sharing. I hope the article was helpful.

    • profile image

      Vanderleelie 

      5 years ago

      A well-written article about Giotto's famous painting. You have highlighted the wonderful naturalism that the artist used to create drama in the work. Voted up and shared.

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