There is a story which has been often repeated which says, that in order to paint his crucifixes so well, he persuaded a man to be bound to a cross for an hour as a model; and when he had him there he stabbed him, in order to see such agony as he wished to paint. When the Pope saw the picture he was so pleased with it that he wished to have it for his own chapel; then Giotto confessed what he had done, and showed the body of the dead man. The Pope was so angry that he threatened the painter with the same death, upon which Giotto brushed the picture over so that it seemed to be destroyed. Then the Pope so regretted the loss of the crucifix that he promised to pardon Giotto if he would paint him another as good. Giotto exacted the promise in writing, and then, with a wet sponge, removed the wash he had used, and the picture was as good as before. According to tradition all famous crucifixes were drawn from this picture ever after.

When Boniface VIII. sent a messenger to invite Giotto to Rome, the messenger asked Giotto to show him something of the art which had made him so famous. Giotto, with a pencil, by a single motion drew so perfect a circle that it was thought to be a miracle, and this gave rise to a proverb still much used in Italy:—Piu tondo che l’O di Giotto, or, “Rounder than the O of Giotto.”

Giotto had a wife and eight children, of whom nothing is known but that his son Francesco became a painter. Giotto died in 1337, and was buried with great honors in the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore. Lorenzo de Medici erected a monument to his memory. The pupils and followers of Giotto were very numerous, and were called Giotteschi; among these Taddeo Gaddi, and his son Agnolo, are most famous: others were Maso and Bernardo di Daddo; but I shall not speak in detail of these artists.

While Giotto was making the art of Florence famous, there was an artist in Siena who raised the school of that city to a place of great honor. This was Simone Martini, who lived from 1283 to 1344, and is often called Simone Memmi because he married a sister of another painter, Lippo Memmi. The most important works of Simone which remain are at Siena in the Palazzo Pubblico and in the Lower Church at Assisi. There is one beautiful work of his in the Royal Institution, at Liverpool, which illustrates the text, “Behold, thy father and I have sought Thee, sorrowing.”

While the Papal court was at Avignon, in 1338, Simone removed to that city. Here he became the friend of Petrarch and of Laura, and has been praised by this poet as Giotto was by Dante.

Another eminent Florentine artist was Andrea Orcagna, as he is called, though his real name was Andrea Arcagnuolo di Cione. He was born about 1329, and died about 1368. It has long been the custom to attribute to Orcagna some of the most important frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa; but it is so doubtful whether he worked there that I shall not speak of them. His father was a goldsmith, and Orcagna first studied his father’s craft; he was also an architect, sculptor, mosaist, and poet, as well as a painter. He made an advance in color and in the painting of atmosphere that gives him high rank as a painter; as a sculptor, his tabernacle in the Church of Or San Michele speaks his praise. Mr. C. C. Perkins thus describes it: “Built of white marble in the Gothic style, enriched with every kind of ornament, and storied with bas-reliefs illustrative of the Madonna’s history from her birth to her death, it rises in stately beauty toward the roof of the church, and, whether considered from an architectural, sculptural, or symbolic point of view, must excite the warmest admiration in all who can appreciate the perfect unity of conception through which its bas-reliefs, statuettes, busts, intaglios, mosaics, and incrustations of pietre dure, gilded glass, and enamels are welded into a unique whole.”

But perhaps it is as an architect that Orcagna is most interesting to us, for he it was who made the designs for the Loggia de Lanzi in Florence. This was built as a place for public assembly, and the discussion of the topics of the day in rainy weather; it received its name on account of its nearness to the German guard-house which was called that of the Landsknechts (in German), or Lanzi, as it was given in Italian. Orcagna probably died before the Loggia was completed, and his brother Bernardo succeeded him as architect of the commune. This Loggia is one of the most interesting places in Florence, fully in sight of the Palazzo Signoria, near the gallery of the Uffizi, and itself the storehouse of precious works of sculpture.

There were also in these early days of the fourteenth century schools of art at Bologna and Modena; but we know so little of them in detail that I shall not attempt to give any account of them here, but will pass to the early artists who may be said to belong to the true Renaissance in Italy.

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