GIOTTO di Bondone
(b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze)

Franciscan Allegories: Allegory of Obedience

c. 1320
Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

In the chapterhouse of a cloister Obedience rules between two observers, the dual-faced Prudence (Prudentia) and the quiet Humility (Humilitas). Obedience commands silence and places the yoke upon the monk who kneels before her. Francis, who stands on the roof of the building like an apparition between two kneeling angels, also bears such a yoke.

The embodiment of Presumptuousness, the horned centaur, is denied entrance. Two young men, a monk of the order and a layman, will follow in the footsteps of the saint. An angel has already taken one of them by hand. Interestingly, however, it seems to be Prudence who presides over such a decision: with her dual face she sees both past and future. She holds out a mirror, as a symbol of knowledge, towards the kneeling monk, whom the young men are following, and her astrolabe stands for the wider context which she is able to recognize.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.