Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Giottos and Anti- Giottos in Fourteenth-Century Florentine Art.

San Miniato  al Mont, Florence.
According to a Florentine writer, Franco Sacchetti, an important meeting between a group of celebrated Florentine painters occurred just outside the city, at San Miniato al Monte in 1390, where a discussion on painting took place.[1] In response to the question “Who was the greatest master of painting we have had, other than Giotto,” some of the company replied, Cimabue, some Stefano, some Bernardo (Daddi), and various others. One master present at this conference, Taddeo Gaddi, sounded a pessimistic note. “Certainly there have been plenty of skilful painters, and they have painted in a manner that it is impossible for human hand to equal; but this art has grown and continues to grow worse day by day.” Commenting on this story- which he included in his important study, Painting in Florence and Siena After the Black Death- Millard Meiss observed that the choice of competitors for Giotto was “remarkable.”[2] Interestingly, Taddeos’s melancholic announcement was heard by Orcagna, thought then to be the premier Florentine Trecento painter after Giotto. For some reason Maso di Banco, now thought to be the finest interpreter of Giotto’s art is not mentioned. As Meiss noted, Taddeo’s dismissal of Orcagna and his followers, by omission, all of whom were considered inferior to Maso, suggest “a profound truth.” This is that there was a great difference between the art of Orcagna and his contemporaries from that of Giotto and his successors in the earlier part of the Trecento, or the fourteenth-century.

[1] Sacchetti, Trecento novella, c. 1390.
[2] Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena After the Black Death, (New York, 1964, rep. 1974), 3, and Appendix III, 172-4.

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