GIOTTO di Bondone
(b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze)
Navicella (mosaic fragment)1305-13
Vatican Grotto, Rome
Around 1300 the work of Roman mosaicists extended to the exteriors as well. At Santa Maria Maggiore mosaics were not only added to the interior but also to the outside of the apse and the façade. Another exterior mosaic was the most famous of all the mosaics produced in Rome around 1300, the so-called Navicella ("Little Ship") that Giotto created on commission from Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi. Roughly 9,5 x 13,5 m, the mosaic was placed on the west wall of the oratory of Santa Maria in Turri, in the atrium of the old St. Peter's. Like a huge tableau, it confronted worshippers as they left the basilica. It survives today in the form of a mutilated Baroque reproduction in the basilica's vestibule. Only two fragments from the original, heavily reworked heads of angels that were part of the framing decor, are preserved.