Devilish Giotto Discovery Ups His Art Historical Cred

A devilish head in the clouds of a Giotto mural appears. (via

In today’s dose of art history geek news, we turn to the Daily Mail, which reports that “art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous [13th C.] frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.” If Giotto wasn’t already the master of kicking off the Renaissance, his art history cred just skyrocketed (if that’s possible) with the latest discovery.

According to Reuters:

The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugone. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis.

And then the art history game of “who did it first” kicks in as the Washington Post writes:

Giotto appears to have beaten by nearly two centuries a technique attributed to Andrea Mantegna, who in one painting shows a knight emerging from a cloud.

Damn, Giotto. You just pwnd Mantegna. The Mantegna work they are referring to is his “St. Sebastian” (1456-59) in Vienna:

A detail of Mantegna's "St. Sebastian" in Vienna with an enlargement of the knight in the clouds. (via Wikipedia)

You can see the Giotto fresco in a larger context here. I can barely see the horns of the figure in Giotto’s mural but I’ll leave the final decision with those who have seen it in person and can make out the color changes clearly — from here it looks more like a dark spot though I can see what could be horns.

Yet more proof that Giotto was truly awesome and deserves his title of the first master of the Italian Renaissance. No word yet as to whether the devil discovery impacts the interpretation of the mural cycle.

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