Rre-Renaissance master Giotto shines at Louvre
Show includes three large panels from different career phases
(By Sandra Cordon) Rome, April 17 - Praised by his contemporaries, later admired by Leonardo da Vinci, and copied by Michelangelo, the medieval Italian master Giotto is the subject of an exhibition opening in Paris's renowned Louvre museum. While Giotto is most famous for his emotional frescoes in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, and in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, other works by the Italian painter are scattered around the world. But the Louvre has brought several of his pieces together in an exhibition that is buttressed by works from some his followers, as explained by the show's title: Giotto and His Companions. It opens Thursday and continues until July 15. Born in about 1267 near Florence, Giotto di Bondone died approximately 70 years later. But during that period, he revolutionized painting and attitudes towards art in ways that make his work as appealing today as it was 800 years ago. According to art experts, Giotto broke away from the Byzantine style of many of his teachers and contemporaries, and moved towards depicting figures more naturally, with flowing garments, expressive movements, and three-dimensional weightiness. "A new world, solidly constructed, emerges from Giotto's brush," the Louvre staff write on the museum's website, explaining the Italian artist's style and influence. "It is peopled with figures imbued with a new physical and expressive reality". The exhibition, which is curated by Dominique Thiebaut, an expert in the French and Italian schools of the 13th to the 15th century, includes 30 significant works ranging from paintings and drawings to sculptures and miniatures. The exhibition will include three large Giotto panels representing different phases from his career, beginning with a signed depiction of St. Francis of Assisi receiving the Stigmata. The piece once resided in the church of St Francis in Pisa, but has belonged to the Louvre since the early 19th century. As well, a monumental painted cross dating from around 1315 and that has been recently restored will be shown; as well as a dramatic Crucifixion, acquired by the Louvre in 1999 and believed to have been painted in Giotto's final years in Naples. Drawings and manuscripts identified with Giotto and his followers help to round out the exhibition and its examination his life and influence. Indeed, Giotto became so famous in his lifetime that he travelled across Italy - from Milan to Rimini, Rome to Naples - and may even have worked in the ancient French city of Avignon. He was also a noted architect, and was appointed chief architect to Florence's cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. The campanile there was founded by Giotto in 1334 and bears his name, although it was not completed following his designs. A catalogue of the exhibition Giotto and His Companions has been published in Italian as well as French.