Dear Cleo 18 09 23

Dearest Cleo

I will see you later on today at Auburn’s party, I am looking forward to it. I was up early and finished off my investigation into Cimabue, its Italian for bull headed so it may not have been his real name seems artists have a history if not being known by their real names.

Cimabue was the last of the Florentine Gothic painters and he is also the first painter chronologically in the first art history book by Vasari tracing the rise of the Renaissance. That the second painter chronologically was Giotto should in no way diminish the achievement and greatness of Cimabue.

He was amongst the vanguard of artists moving away from the Italo- Byzantine style introducing modelling and observed perspective into his work. His images were still two dimensional  due to the Gothic outlining tradition but the introduction of modelling of forms  overlapping of figures and observed perspective introduced a depth in his work that heralded, according to Vasari, the dawn of a new age.

Figure 1 Santa Trinita Madonna

It is difficult to leave aside the engrained story of the Renaissance but put a little spin on it and Cimabue could be the pinnacle of Gothic Art and it would not be until El Greco that elongated forms became fashionable again.

Cimabue’s altar piece, the Santa Trinita Madonna is now in the Uffizi and well lit and it is difficult to imagine the effect in the fourteenth century of the impact of the glittering gold in the relative darkness of the Santa Trinita Church.

Figure 2 Crucifix of Santa Croche

It is interesting to compare his Crucifix of Santa Croche, badly damaged in the Arno flood and since restored, with The Crucifix of Arezzo painted ten years earlier by Cimabue to see the Byzantine influence drifting from his work.

There is also something very modern in the shape of the panels to accommodate the body of Christ and the on looking Mary and St John.

I saw much of Cimabue’s work on a trip to Florence and by a strange quirk of fate and an Italian airport strike, I spent several hours in Pisa Cathedral where his last work, the mosaic figure of Saint John, resides.

See you later on today

All the best

Mickos xx


Vassari,G. (1912) Lives of the Most Eminent Painters  Sculptors & Architects. London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd & the Medici Society Ltd.

(All accessed September 2018)


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