Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Favorite Frescoes at Santa Croce, Firenze

Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, built in the 13th century, boasted of many early frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi, Taddeo Gaddi and Giotto (Giotto di Bondone).

Giotto, who emerged from the medieval tradition and ushered in the Renaissance spirit in Italy with his increasingly naturalistic approaches, had a large presence in Santa Croce.  Amongst the many frescoes by him and other masters, it was difficult to pick favorites, yet choose I must.

For the top choice, I'll choose "The Death of St. Francis" in Bardi Chapel, as part of the cycle on "The Life of St. Francis". 

This death scene, appropriately somber, was intense yet restrained, with amazingly beautiful hues on the sky, the background, the bed and the robe of a high prelate or a prince. The facial expressions on the mourning people vivid but dignified.  The harmony of these pale yet vibrant colors was like the Renaissance polyphony, soaring, comforting and otherworldly.  This picture was almost too beautiful for a death scene.

The Death of St. Francis
Bardi Chapel, Basilica of Santa Croce

The second pick of mine went to another piece of this cycle - "Apparition at Arles". The story was that one day, when St. Anthony of Padua was preaching in the chapter house at Arles, St. Francis miraculously appeared.

Here, Giotto presented us a group portrait in a composition quite similar to the later, more renown masterpiece - the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan - the crowd sat in a horizontal file, while in the middle of the row, larger than life, St. Francis floated in the mid air and caused amazement amongst the people, except for one brother who perhaps had dozed off.  St. Anthony, calmly faced St. Francis, anchoring the left side of the picture, together with the sitting people below, they formed a rough pyramid, adding more of the classic air to the picture.  The figures here were more in the line drawing form, with delicately outlined faces, particularly that of St. Francis, quite like the later works by Fra Angelico and Botticelli.  The earth-colored robes echoed the rusty hued roof tiles, and the marble tile on the foreground.  Subtly, pale wash of green and blue accented the painting and created a subtle yet rich fabric for this scene, frozen in time.

Scenes from the Life of Saint Francis: 3. Apparition at Arles 1325
Bardi Chapel, Basilica of Santa Croce

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 24: My Favorite Works at Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Firenze, Italia
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 22:  My Favorite Sculptures at Loggia dei Lanzi (Loggia della Signoria), Firenze

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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