I was originally going to do the Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel on Sunday on my weekend in Padua but I finished everything by 5:00 pm on Saturday that I decided to changed to a reservation that night at 7:20 pm for “Giotto Sotto le Stelle” (“Giotto Under the Stars”). With this ticket, I got to spend 40 minutes, versus 20, in the chapel – well worth it!
For those of you who don’t know, the chapel is SUPER art history famous and here’s why (abridged from my professor’s, Dr. Zaho, lesson):
Giotto, is one of the “fathers of renaissance painting,” his work is important for reintroducing the modeling and feeling of form that was not seen previously in medieval painting, a return to ancient Greek and Roman techniques which spurred the larger Renaissance revival of the ancients. This chapel was painted from 1305-1310 for the Scrovegni family as an offering of atonement for how they made their money: usury (charging interest for a loan, aka the modern banking system).
When I went, you could not take photos inside (you can now! without flash!), so the photo below is not mine but it helps to show how every surface is covered in these vibrant colors. The panels display the life of Mary’s legendary parents, Joachim and Anna, life of Mary and Christ. There are a few panels that I specially studied in my classes, but they were all breathtaking. Look up at the ceiling and you can see why it is called “Giotto under the stars” – the ceiling is this brilliant blue with gold stars. I wanted to lie down and just stare up at the sky.
…e quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.” (“…and thence we came forth to see again the stars.”)
— Dante Alighieri, Inferno
I have a theory on how the Catholic Church can get people back in their doors on Sunday – paint them like this! Churches nowadays are too plain 🙂 Just food for thought.
P.S. 2016 update: This image is part of the AP Art History 250, specifically focusing on the Last Judgement & Lamentation.