Cimabue

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Maestà di Santa Trinità, 1280–1285, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Cimabue (Italian: [tʃimaˈbuːe]; c. 1240 – 1302),[1] also known as Cenni di Pepo[2] or Cenni di Pepi,[3] was a Florentine painter and designer of mosaics.

Cimabue is generally regarded as one of the first great Italian painters to break from the Italo-Byzantine style, although he still relied on Byzantine models.[4] The art of this period comprised scenes and forms that appeared relatively flat and highly stylized. Cimabue was a pioneer in the move towards naturalism; his figures were depicted with more lifelike proportions and shading. Even though he was a pioneer in that move, his Maestà paintings evidence Medieval techniques and characteristics. According to Italian painter and historian Giorgio Vasari, Cimabue was the teacher of Giotto,[1] the first great artist of the Italian Proto-Renaissance. However, many scholars today tend to discount Vasari's claim, citing earlier sources which suggest this was not the case.[5]

Life[edit]

Few early surviving records mention Cimabue and little is known about his life. One source which recounts his career is Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, though the accuracy of what it has to say is uncertain.

Fresco in the Lower Basilica of Assisi

He was born in Florence and died in Pisa. He perhaps may have trained in Florence under unknown masters culturally connected to Byzantine art. Many scholars today tend to discount Vasari's claim that he later had Giotto as his pupil, citing earlier sources which suggest this was not the case.[6]

The Italian art historian Pietro Toesca attributed to Cimabue the Crucifixion in the church of San Domenico in Arezzo, dated to around 1270. This would be the earliest attributed work and it departs from the Byzantine style,[7] being more reminiscent of works such as the Christus patiens (c. 1250) by Giunta Pisano. Cimabue's Christ, however, is more bent and the clothes have the golden striations introduced by Coppo di Marcovaldo.

Around 1272 Cimabue is documented as being present in Rome,[8] and a little later he executed another Crucifix for the Florentine church of Santa Croce.[9] Now restored, having been damaged by the 1966 Arno River flood, this was a larger and more evolved work than the one in Arezzo, with traces of naturalism perhaps inspired by the works of Nicola Pisano. In the same period (c. 1280) Cimabue painted the Maestà, originally displayed in the church of San Francesco at Pisa, but now at the Louvre.[10] This work established a style which was followed subsequently by numerous artists, including Duccio di Buoninsegna in his Rucellai Madonna (in the past wrongly attributed to Cimabue), as well as Giotto. Other works dated to this period, in which the influence of Giotto becomes manifested, include a Flagellation (Frick Collection), mosaics for the Baptistery of Florence (now largely restored), the Maestà at the Santa Maria dei Servi in Bologna and the Madonna in the Pinacoteca of Castelfiorentino. A workshop painting, perhaps assignable to a slightly later period, is the Maestà with Saints Francis and Dominic currently housed in the Uffizi.[citation needed]

During the pontificate of Pope Nicholas IV, the first Franciscan pope,[11] Cimabue worked at Assisi.[12] Perhaps Cimabue owded this commission to the fame he had gained in Rome in 1272, although no works from his Roman visit are known. At Assisi, in the transept of the Lower Basilica of San Francesco, he created a fresco depicting Madonna with Child Enthroned, Four Angels and St Francis. The left portion of this fresco is lost, but it may have shown St Anthony of Padua (the authorship of the painting has been recently disputed[citation needed] for technical and stylistic reasons). Cimabue was subsequently commissioned to decorate the apse and the transept of the Upper Basilica of Assisi, in the same period of time that Roman artists were decorating the nave. The cycle he created there comprises scenes from the Gospels, the lives of the Virgin Mary, St Peter and St Paul. These paintings are unfortunately now in poor condition due to the oxidation of the brighter colours which the artist used.

Crucifix, 1287–1288, Panel, 448 cm × 390 cm (176.4 in × 153.5 in), Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

The Maestà of Santa Trinità, dated to c. 1290–1300, which was originally painted for the church of Santa Trinità in Florence is now in the Uffizi Gallery. The softer expression of the characters suggests that it was influenced by Giotto, who was by then already active as a painter.[13]

Cimabue spent the last period of his life, 1301 to 1302, in Pisa. There he was commissioned to finish a mosaic of Christ Enthroned, originally begun by Maestro Francesco, in the apse of the city's cathedral. Cimabue was to create the part of the mosaic depicting St John the Evangelist, which remains the sole surviving work documented as being by the artist.[14] Cimabue died around the year 1302.[15]

Character[edit]

According to Giorgio Vasari, "Cimabue of Florence was a painter who lived during the author's own time, a nobler man than anyone knew but he was as a result so haughty and proud that if someone pointed out to him any mistake or defect in his work, or if he had noted any himself...he would immediately destroy the work, no matter how precious it might be." [16]

Legacy[edit]

History has long regarded Cimabue as the last of an era that was overshadowed by the Italian Renaissance. As early as 1543, Vasari wrote of Cimabue, "Cimabue was, in one sense, the principal cause of the renewal of painting," with the qualification that, "Giotto truly eclipsed Cimabue's fame just as a great light eclipses a much smaller one."[16]

In Canto XI of his Purgatorio, Dante laments Cimabue's quick loss of public interest in the face of Giotto's revolution in art:[17]

O vanity of human powers,
how briefly lasts the crowning green of glory,
unless an age of darkness follows!
In painting Cimabue thought he held the field
but now it's Giotto has the cry,
so that the other's fame is dimmed.

Gallery[edit]

References and sources[edit]

References
  1. ^ a b Vasari, G. Lives of the Artists. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.C. and P Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford World’s Classics), 1991, pp. 7–14. ISBN 978-0-19-953719-8.
  2. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 38. 
  3. ^ J. A. Crowe and G. B. Calvalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy; Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century, vol. 1, AMS Press, 1975, p. 202.
  4. ^ Fred Kleiner (2008). Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Global History. Vol. 2. Cengage Learning EMEA. p. 502.
  5. ^ Hayden B.J. Maginnis, "In Search of an Artist," in Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona, The Cambridge Companion to Giotto, Cambridge, 2004, 12-13.
  6. ^ Hayden B.J. Maginnis, "In Search of an Artist," in Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona, The Cambridge Companion to Giotto, Cambridge, 2004, 12-13.
  7. ^ Paoletti, John T.; Radke, Gary M. (2005). Art in Renaissance Italy. Laurence King Publishing. p. 51. 
  8. ^ Van Vechten Brown, Alice; Rankin, William (1914). A Short History of Italian Painting. J.M. Dent & Sons, ltd. p. 41. 
  9. ^ Brink, Joel (October 1978). "Carpentry and Symmetry in Cimabue's Santa Croce Crucifix". The Burlington Magazine. Volume 120 (No. 907). 
  10. ^ Maxwell, Virginia; Leviton, Alex; Pettersen, Leif (2010). Tuscany & Umbria. Lonely Planet. p. 364. 
  11. ^ Havely, Nick (2004). Dante and the Franciscans: Poverty and the Papacy in the 'Commedia'. Cambridge University Press. p. 39. 
  12. ^ Brooke, Rosalind B. (2006). The Image of St. Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 352. 
  13. ^ Paoletti, John T.; Radke, Gary M. (2005). Art in Renaissance Italy. Laurence King Publishing. p. 85. 
  14. ^ White, John (26 May 1993). Art and architecture in Italy 1250-1400 (3rd Revised ed. ed.). Yale University Press. p. 175. ISBN 9707250208. 
  15. ^ Kleinhenz, Christopher (2004). Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 223–224. 
  16. ^ a b Vasari, Giorgio (1991). Lives of the Artists, 1550. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-19-281754-X. 
  17. ^ Purgatio XI, cited in the Cenni di Petro Cimabue article in the Catholic Encyclopedia
Sources
  • Adams, Laurie Schneider (2001). Italian Renaissance Art. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. p. 420. ISBN 0-8133-3690-2. 
  • Vasari, Giorgio; translation by George Bull (1987). Lives of the Artists. Penguin Classics. ISBN 9780140445008. 
  • Vaughn, William (2000). Encyclopedia of Artists. Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 0-19-521572-9. 
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Rossetti, William Michael (1911). "Cimabue, Giovanni". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]