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

No. 13 God Sends Gabriel to the Virgin

Fresco, 230 x 690 cm
Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

In the upper section of the lunette above the chancel arch God the Father enthroned is painted, while the sides of the lunette are occupied by the scene of the Annunciation.

The border between painted and real space appears to have been breached in Giotto's frescoes. This characterizes the representation of God the Father at the top of the triumphal arch wall above the entrance to the choir. The heavens have opened and ranks of angels surround God the Father on his throne. Amongst the angels, who move elegantly, the depiction of God, with his delicately shimmering, bright robes and his hieratic face, gives the impression of his belonging to a different sphere.

This particular effect is also the result of a different painting technique: God the Father is not painted as a fresco on the wall, but in tempera on a wooden panel. This "door" was presumably opened during the mystery plays performed to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, in order that the dove of Annunciation could fly out. The representation of the Annunciation directly below it is an indication of this. In a magnificent way, Giotto here combines the real architecture of the church interior with feigned, painted architectural elements to create a meaningful unity. To the right and left of the arch, the angel and Mary kneel in their respective buildings. It is only through the connecting architecture that tension is maintained within the depiction of the Annunciation, even over this great, daring distance and separation of figures, and that God the Father — at the top of the triumphal arch — is also included in the action. As far as form and content were concerned, Giotto was even here entering new territory.

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