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A NEW AND GENERAL
GIOTTO, an eminent painter, sculptor, and architects was born in 1276, at a village near Florence, of parents who were plain country people. When a boy, he was sent out to keep sheep in the fields; and, having a natural inclination for design, he used to amuse himself with drawing his flock after the life upon sand, in the best man. ner he could. Cimabue travelling once that way, found him at this work, and thence conceived so good an opinion of his genius for painting, that he prevailed with his father to let him go to Florence, and be brought up under him. He had not applied himself long to designing, before he began to shake off the stiffness of the Grecian masters. He endeavoured to give a finer air to his heads, and more of nature to his colouring, with proper actions to his figures. He attempted likewise to draw after the life, and to express the different passions of the mind; but could not come up to the liveliness of the eyes, the tenderness of the flesh, or the strength of the muscles in naked figures. What he did, however, had not been done in two centuries before, with any skill equal to his. Giotto's reputation was so far extended, that pope Benedict IX. sent a gentleman of his court into Tuscany, to bring him a just report of his talents; and withal to bring him a design from each of the Florentine painters, being desirous to have some notion of their skilt. When he came to VOL. XVI.
Giotto, he told him of the pope's intentions, which were to employ him in St. Peter's church at Rome; and desired him to send some design by him to his holiness. Giotto, who was a pleasant ready man, took a sheet of white paper, and setting his arm close to his hip to keep it steady, he drew with one stroke of his pencil a circle so round and so equal, that "round as Giotto's O" afterwards became proverbial. Then, presenting it to the gentleman, he told him smiling, that "there was a piece of design, which he might carry to his holiness." The man replied, "I ask for a design" Giotto answered, "Go, sir, I tell you his holiness asks nothing else of me." The pope, who understood something of painting, easily comprehended by this, how much Giotto in strength of design excelled all the other painters of his time; and accordingly sent for him to Rome. Here he painted many pieces, and amongst the rest a ship of Mosaic work, which is over the three gates of the portico, in the entrance to St. Peter's church, and is known to painters by the name of Giotto's vessel. Pope Benedict was succeeded by Clement V. who transferred the papal court to Avignon; whither, likewise, Giotto was obliged to go. After some stay there, having perfectly satisfied the pope by many fine specimens of his art, he was largely rewarded, and returned to Florence full of riches and honour in 1316. He was soon invited to Padua, where he painted a new-built chapel very curiously; thence he went to Verona, and then to Ferrara. At the same time the poet Dante, hearing that Giotto was at Ferrara, and being himself then in exile at Ravenna, got him over to Ravenna, where he executed several pieces; and perhaps it might be here that he drew Dante's picture, though the friendship between the poet and the painter was previous to this. In 1322, he was again invited abroad by Castruccio Castrucani, lord of Luca; and, after that, by Robert king of Naples. Giotto painted much at Naples, and chiefly the chapel, where the king was so pleased with him, that he used very often to go and sit by him while he was at work: for Giotto was a man of pleasant conversation and wit. One day, it being very hot, the king said to him, "If I were you, Giotto, I would leave off working this hot weather;"" and so would I, Sir," says Giotto, "if I were you." He returned from Naples to Rome, and from Rome to Florence, leaving monuments of his art in almost every place through which he passed. There is a
pictare of his in one of the churches of Florence, representing the death of the blessed Virgin, with the apostles about her : the attitudes of which story, Michael Angelo used to say, could not be better designed. . Giotto, however, did not confine his genius altogether to painting : he was both a sculptor and arcbitect. In 1327 he formed the design of a magnificent and beautiful monument for Guido Tarlati, bishop of Arezzo, who had been the head of the Ghibeline faction in Tuscany: and in 1334 he undertook the famous tower of Sancta Maria del Fiore; for which work, though it was not finished, he was made a citizen of Florence, and endowed with a considerable yearly pension.
His death happened in 1336 : and the city of Florence erected a marble statue over his tomb. He had the esteem and friendship of most of the excellent men of the age in which he lived : and among the rest, of Dante and Petrarch. He drew, as already noticed, the picture of the former ; and the latter mentions him in his will, and in one of his familiar epistles.
Giotto is said to have been the inventor of Mosaic work, and of crucifixes. The former has been disproved in our Archæologia. The latter rests on a story which we hope has as little foundation. It is thus related : “ Giotto, intending one day to draw a crucifix to the life, wheedled a poor man to suffer himself to be bound to a cross for an hour, at the end of which he was to be released, and receive a considerable reward for it; but instead of this, as soon as he had fastened him, he stabbed him dead, and then fell to drawing : when he had finished his picture, he carried it to the pope, who liked it so well, that he was resolved to place it over the altar of his own chapel : Giotto told him, as he liked the copy so well, he would show him the original. What do you mean, said the pope? Will you show me Jesus Christ on the cross in person? No, said Giotto, but I will show your holiness the original from whence I drew this, if you will absolve me from all punishment. The pope promised this, which Giotto believing, attended him to the place where it was : as soon as they were entered, he drew back a curtain, which hung before the dead man on the cross, and told him what he had done. The pope, troubled at so barbarous
, an action, repealed his promise, and told Giotto, that he should surely be put to an exemplary death. Giotto, with a seeming resignation, only begged leave to finish the
piece before he died, which was granted him, and a guard set upon him to prevent his escape. As soon as the picture was delivered into his hands, he took a brush, and dipping it into a sort of stuff ready for that purpose, daubed the picture all over with it, so that nothing of the crucifix could be seen. This made his holiness stark mad, and he swore, that Giotto should be put to the most cruel death, unless he drew another equal to the former; if so, hẹ would not only give him his life, but also an ample reward in money. Giotto, as he had reason, desired this under the pope's signet, that he might not be in danger of a second repeal. This was granted to him; and taking a wet spunge, he wiped off all the varnish he had daubed on the picture, so that the crucifix appeared the same in all respects as it did before. Upon this, the pope remitted his punishment. And they say, that this crucifix is the original, from which the most famous crucifixes in Europe are drawn."1
GIOVIO. See JOVIUS.
GIRALDI (LILIO GREGORIO), in Latin Gyraldus, an ingenious and learned Italian critic, was born at Ferrara in 1479, of an ancient and reputable family. He learned the Latin tongue and polite literature under Baptist Guarini; and afterwards the Greek at Milan under Demetrius Chalcondyles. He retired into the neighbourhood of Albert Picus, prince of Carpi, and of John Francis Picus, prince of Mirandula; and, having by their means access to a large and well-furnished library, he applied himself intensely to study. He afterwards went to Modena, and thence to Rome, but being unfortunately in this city when it was plundered by the soldiers of Charles V. in 1527, he lost his all in the general ruin; and soon after his patron cardinal Rangone, with whom he had lived some time. He was then obliged to shelter himself in the house of the prince of Mirandula, a relation of the great Picus, but had the misfortune to lose this protector in 1533, who was assassinated in a conspiracy headed by his nephew. Giraldi was at that time so afflicted with the gout, that he had great difficulty to save himself from the hands of the conspirators, and lost all which he had acquired since the sacking of Rome. He then returned to his own country, and lived at Ferrara, where he found a refuge from his
* Pilkington.-Vasari.—Aglionby's Lives of the Painters.-De Piles.