The frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua are among the most celebrated works in the history of art. Giotto's work was a source of inspiration and instruction for generations of painters; it was studied and absorbed by Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, artists whose own work was to be of such fundamental importance for the history of European art.
with any historical figure of genius, there is something legendary
about Giotto. No amount of art historical research or factual
documentation can ever quite eliminate this super human dimension.
There is the legendary stories that Giotto was a shepherd lad who was
discovered making perfect sketches of sheep on flat rocks, and was
said to be an extremely successful businessman with a flourishing
factory that made pigs' bristle brushes of all sorts. The Arena Chapel
is the most effective place to make a study of Giotto; for it is here
he shows the full scope of his artistic revolution. Although these
frescoes were painted early in his career, they contain his
fundamental contribution and already reveal the nature of the mature
was one of the earliest artists to depict the illusions of real life,
in terms of emotion and space; on a flat surface. With Cimabue Giotto
is often regarded as the founder on modern painting, as he broke away
from the static stereotyped conventions of his day.
Enrico Scrovegni was one of Padua's best known and wealthiest citizens. He took over his father's lucrative business and had amassed a fortune by lending money at high rates, a practice that the church and fellow citizens saw as sinful. Dante in his Divine Comedy had banished Riginaldo(Enrico's father) to the seventh circle of hell. This part of hell is reserved for sinful usurers. Enrico was seen as a trickster, a hypocrite, and also as suffering from the sin of pride. The family was not on the best of terms with the church. During the siege of 1320, Enrico deserted Padua and fled to Venice where he lived until he died in 1336. His body was brought back to Padua and placed in his tomb in the chapel. Enrico had built the chapel thinking it would guarantee him a place in heaven.