The ugliest man in town

Jan 17, 2022 | Art-Test News

On 1 December 1328 Giotto arrived in Naples, at the court of the Sicilian king Robert of Anjou.

The artist receives at court an economic arrangement that is completely unusual in the rest of Italy and Europe: a salary, a house, a life pension, gifts, and finally the title of “family member” of the king, generally granted to bishops, bankers and great officials of the kingdom.

In fact, for the first time with Giotto, who was also of humble birth, the social role of the artist who is able to contribute decisively to the construction of the image and cultural policy of a sovereign is established, and for this capacity he is paid.

Giotto, already exalted by Dante and shortly thereafter by Petrarch and Boccaccio as a “prince” among the painters of his time, is an extraordinary artist, a revolutionary.

For Cennino Cennini: “He changed the art of Greek into Latin and translated it to the modern”, alluding to the overcoming of Byzantine schemes and the opening towards a representation that introduced the sense of space, volume and color, anticipating the values ​​of the age of Humanism. For the first time in painting you can see the teeth, the tears, the emotions.

Giotto may have been the ugliest man in all of Florence, as Vasari writes, but we will never be grateful enough for the beauty he has given us.