Ognissanti Madonna

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Ognissanti Madonna
ArtistGiotto di Bondone
Yearc. 1310
MediumTempera on panel
Dimensions325 cm × 204 cm (128 in × 80 in)
LocationUffizi Gallery, Florence

Madonna Enthroned, also known as the Ognissanti Madonna, or just Madonna Ognissanti, is a painting by the Italian late medieval artist Giotto di Bondone, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.

The painting has a traditional Christian subject, representing the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child seated on her lap, with saints and angels surrounding them on all sides. This particular representation of the Virgin is called a Maestà, a popular representation at the time. It is often celebrated as the first painting of the Renaissance due to its newfound naturalism and escape from the constraints of Gothic art.

It is generally dated to around 1310. While historians have had trouble finding specific information for indisputably attributing many of Giotto's works to the artist, Madonna Enthroned is one piece for which there are a few documents supporting its creation by Giotto. There are many sources that show he spent many years living and creating in Florence. However, the main source that documents Madonna Enthroned specifically is artist Lorenzo Ghiberti's autobiography, I Commentarii (1447). An earlier manuscript document of 1418 also attributes the painting to Giotto, but it is Ghiberti's autobiography that provides the most solid evidence.[1]

One of Giotto's later works, Madonna Enthroned was completed in Florence, upon the artist's return to the city. It was originally painted for the Ognissanti church in Florence. Built for the Humiliati, a small religious order at the time, the church had many acclaimed paintings designed for it. Specifically, Giotto's Madonna Enthroned was designed for the high altar.


The 'Madonna Enthroned' shows the numerous styles of art that influenced Giotto. In both the gold coloring used throughout the artwork and the flat gold ground, Giotto's art continued the traditional Italo-Byzantine style so popular in the proto-Renaissance period. The altarpiece represents a formalized representation of an icon, still retaining the stiffness of Byzantine art, and Giotto retained the hierarchy of scale, making the centralized Madonna and the Christ Child much larger in size than the surrounding saints and religious figures.[2]

Giotto's figures, however, escape the bounds of Byzantine art. His figures are weighty and are reminiscent of three-dimensional sculptures, such as those in classical Roman sculpture. The Madonna's intricately decorated throne, which itself is an Italian Gothic design, has a very specific use of colored marble as a surface decoration. This method of decoration, based on a style called Cosmatesque or Cosmati, was popular in Rome since the Early Christian period and in Tuscany in the Late Middle Ages.

There were, additionally, a number of specific artists whose styles heavily influenced the Ognissanti Madonna. The influence of Cimabue, traditionally recognized as Giotto's teacher (based on Giorgio Vasari's 16th century Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), is shown first in the very symmetrical composition of the piece.[3] Cimabue portrayed the same subject of symmetry in his 1280 'Virgin and Child Enthroned', and both pieces share aspects of the Italo-Byzantine style, with Cimabue's having more Byzantine attributes. Additionally, the two depictions of the angels' wings in Giotto and Cimabue's pieces clearly resemble each other. Both pieces share a similar, initial feeling of severity, yet there is more to each piece than the drama. Giotto adopted from his teacher the importance of, and the concern for, volume and forms in space.

The tranquility of Giotto's figures resembled also the style of Pietro Cavallini. From this artist, who painted neo-Byzantine pieces, taking cues from both mosaics and frescos from Roman and Early Christian times, Giotto took important lessons in the technique of painting, and in rendering figures as statuesque and calm.[4]

Lastly, Giotto took cues from many contemporary sculptors, including Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, whose work shares influences of Northern Gothic art. In the work of these artists, Giotto saw great, dramatic compositions that would certainly influence his Ognissanti Madonna.


Giotto was one of the first artists to capitalize on the potentialities of the practice of convincing three-dimensional space in paintings and reliefs. Giotto’s utilization of figure and frame enhances the illusion of special continuity beyond the confines of the artificial frame; This has been consistently evident across his extensive series of frescoes he created after 1305 in the Arena Chapel of Padua. The relation he's created between the painted frames to the painted figures gives an invitation for analysis.[5]

Additionally, he used a much smaller space than other contemporary artists, further emphasizing the importance of the bodies in the artwork. Giotto did away with many aspects of Byzantine art that would flatten the painting. Within Cimabue's Virgin and Child Enthroned, there is the use of gold tracing to delineate the folds of the fabric. In contrast to this, Giotto's fabric folds are more realistic, and instead of lines he used light, shadow, and color to create the appearance of fabric. Contours of the body underneath these fabric folds are also visible, specifically in the Virgin's knees and also around her breasts.

Giotto used a value scale, a distinct range of light and dark, to create a sense of volume in his figures, giving them the slight smokiness that is usually characteristic of Leonardo da Vinci and later Renaissance artists. Unlike in other paintings by Giotto, the light source in Ognissanti Madonna is located on the right side of the piece as opposed to the left. The meaning behind this is not known for sure, although a few logical reasons for this could be the Ognissanti Madonna's placement within the church or Giotto's use of exaggeration with lighting.[6]


External videos
video icon Giotto, The Ognissanti Madonna (Madonna Enthroned), Smarthistory[7]


  1. ^ Turner, 676
  2. ^ Haegen, Anne Mueller von der; Strasser, Ruth F. (2013). "Galleria degli Uffizi". Art & Architecture: Tuscany. Potsdam: H.F.Ullmann Publishing. p. 188. ISBN 978-3-8480-0321-1.
  3. ^ Stokstad, 603
  4. ^ Turner, 686
  5. ^ Zucker, Mark J. (1982). ""FIGURE AND FRAME IN THE PAINTINGS OF GIOTTO"". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 1 (4): 1–5 – via JSTOR.
  6. ^ Miller, Julia I. (1985). "Symbolic Light in Giotto and the Early Quattrocento in Florence". Source: Notes in the History of Art. 5 (1): 9 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ "Giotto, The Ognissanti Madonna (Madonna Enthroned)". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved January 24, 2013.


  • Beckett, Sister Wendy and Patricia Wright. Sister Wendy's 1000 Masterpieces: Sister Wendy Beckett's Selection of the Greatest Paintings in Western Art. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999. Print.
  • Greenspun, Joanne, ed. History of Art. Abrams: New York, 1997. Print.
  • Miller, Julia I. and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell. From Giotto to Botticelli: The Artistic Patronage of the Humiliati in Florence. University Park, PA, 2015.
  • Turner, Jane, ed. The Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance and Mannerist Art, Vol. 1. London: Macmillan Reference, 2000. Print.
  • Zucker, Mark J. “FIGURE AND FRAME IN THE PAINTINGS OF GIOTTO.” Source: Notes in the History of Art, vol. 1, no. 4, 1982, pp. 1–5. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23202211. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.