Spring 2014

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Penny Jolly


Much has been written about Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel in Padua, completed in 1305. Often overlooked in this scholarship, however, is the pictorial and visual innovations Giotto employed there, and the techniques he utilized to achieve them. A few scholars, most notably Anne Derbes and Mark Sandona, have touched on these unique visual techniques in their discussion of the Chapel, but this topic merits a more in depth discussion, which is the goal of the present paper. In order to provoke greater contemplation by the viewer and enable the extraction of more profound meanings, Giotto used strategies such including visual “rhymes,” where a pose or posture is echoed in multiple figures throughout the Chapel. The relationships created by these rhymes inspire reflection on the nature of the relationship and its significance. The pose and posture of individual figures are also meaningful: Giotto used body language effectively to visually express the character of a figure, inviting the viewer to ponder the human nature of that figure. Arguably, it is these techniques that make the Chapel so awe-inspiring, and this justifies a more in depth discussion of Giotto’s visual ingenuity. Through the visible, the invisible is made apparent, and Giotto masterfully employs this idea in the Arena Chapel. A study of Giotto’s visual techniques in the entire Chapel would be a weighty task and beyond the scope of this paper; I will be focusing on specific area of the Chapel that is often overlooked: the cycle of virtues and vices in the dado. It is, in fact, these visual techniques that makes this program so compelling and, as Andrew Ladis says, “an integral part of Giotto’s scheme.” It is through Giotto’s visual ingenuity that the importance of the virtues and vices is illuminated.


Note: Access to this thesis is restricted to Skidmore community.