GIUSTO de' Menabuoi
(b. ca. 1320, Firenze, d. 1391, Firenze)

Paradise (dome frescoes)

c. 1378
Baptistery, Padua

The dominant accent is the fresco in the dome of the cupola, its theme - Paradise depicted as a heavenly retinue assembled around Christ - had been a recurring subject of fourteenth-century frescoes. It probably reflected the effect that Dante's Divine Comedy had on its contemporaries.

The inner circle of this concentrically hierarchical image of heaven is occupied by the half-length figure of the blessing Christ which is emphasized by its size. The figure in the aureole is surrounded both inside and outside first by angels and then by three densely packed ranks of patriarchs, prophets and saints, with the size of the figures continually increasing as one moves down, which produces an illusion of depth and lends a certain illusionism to the uniformity of the ensemble. This strictly hierarchical order is interrupted in just one place, by the figure of the Virgin that stands or hovers below Christ. Angelic musicians frame Mary's figure, while John the Baptist as mediator kneels at her right, and at her left a kneeling John the Evangelist turns toward her in worship.

This vision of paradise is followed in the next lower section of the dome with scenes from the Genesis. They begin beneath the figure of the Virgin with the Creation of the World, which is depicted in an extremely unusual form here. The first scene are followed by other biblical scenes, the number of which - thirty-three in all - is striking given the amount of available space. The painter created irregularly sized picture fields, and in most of them the scale of the figures is extremely small, which is hardly suitable to the demands of mural painting.

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