Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in the Arena of History

Henrike Christiane Lange

Giotto’s Arena Chapel and the Triumph of Humility takes its lead from three features of the famous monument that each engage the question of time, material, and immateriality: 1. the painted, faux marble panels that line the interior of the chapel, 2. the faded polychrome relief figures of the virtues and vices in the lowest register of figural decoration, and, 3. the strange broken vault of the chapel which seems open to a vision of the heavens above.

Situated in the ruins of Padua’s ancient Roman arena and under the vault of a fictive starry sky, the painted architectural elements and figures in Giotto’s chapel explore stylistic oppositions inspired by pagan Roman relief on the one hand, and Byzantine and Italian Duecento art on the other. Giotto’s innovative take on historical styles within the chapel demonstrates that the painter-architect was aware of changing aesthetic attitudes throughout time. His frescoes create a perceptive integration of past, present, and future that contributes to the perpetual fascination with the chapel to the present day.

For the reader, the book’s extensive illustration programme offers the opportunity of an extended visit to the chapel on the pages before or after a trip to Padua. Almost 200 colour plates, including individual images of the entire narrative cycle, have been carefully selected to show the chapel’s frescoes from unusual angles and under different natural light conditions, with special attention paid to traditionally underillustrated details.

Latest and upcoming: 

Art Sense podcast with Craig Gould available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify here and on all major podcast platforms. 

Giotto book chat with Whitney Davis hosted by Director Stephen Best available on the Townsend Center’s website and on YouTube.

Giotto ! Renaissance (December 6, 2023) at the ZI in Munich in person and live on zoom.

Giotto’s Arena Chapel and the Triumph of Humility by Henrike Christiane Lange

About The Author

Henrike Christiane Lange

Henrike Christiane Lange is Associate Professor in History of Art and Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Lange completed her Magister Artium at Universität...

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