Bardi chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

(c. 1325)
   Giotto's frescoes in the Bardi Chapel at Santa Croce, Florence, were whitewashed in the 18th century and uncovered in the 19th century, when they were over-restored. Eventually the excessive overpaint was removed to reveal the original frescoes. These, surprisingly, are in fair condition, save for some bare spots where a tomb once stood. The Bardi were a prominent Florentine family who made their fortune through banking. With branches in Italy, England, France, and Flanders, by 1310 they were the wealthiest family of Florence. Their chapel at Santa Croce offered the opportunity to assert publicly their socioeconomic position. They gave the task to decorate their chapel to Giotto, who by then had attained great fame. Santa Croce served as the mother church of the Franciscan Order in Florence. Appropriately, the Bardi chose scenes from the life of the order's founder, St. Francis. Of the narratives, the Death of St. Francis, St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, and the Trial by Fire are the most poignant. This last scene, which shows St. Francis about to walk on fire to prove his faith to the Moslem priests of the Sultan of Egypt, includes one of the earliest representations in art of figures with African features. The scenes depend on St. Bonaventure's Legenda Maior, the official account of St. Francis' life.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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