Members' Research Report Archive
The Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence: A Reconsideration of Giotto's Technique, Chronology, and Patronage
Cecilia Frosinini, Opificio
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellow, March 15–May 15, 2012
The wall painting cycles in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels in the basilica of Santa Croce occupy a precise position in the artistic evolution of Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–1337) and are the traditional touchstones of his post-Paduan phase. Although by the second decade of the fourteenth century his workshop was well established and included important collaborators such as Taddeo Gaddi, Bernardo Daddi, the anonymous Master of the Fogg Pietà, and the young Maso di Banco, this period of Giotto’s career has received less attention than his earlier work, probably because of the fragmentary state of the chapels’ conservation and the lack of consensus on the dating of the paintings. In refurbishing the transept of Santa Croce in the first half of the eighteenth century, the paintings were whitewashed; and during the early nineteenth
A campaign to uncover the frescoes in the Peruzzi Chapel began in 1841. The treatment, carried out by Antonio Marini, was particularly long and difficult because of the original painting technique, found to be almost entirely a secco. The removal of the lime-based whitewash caused a large amount of damage to the weak, original painting layers, and marks left by the tools used for the task are still visible. The treatment was finished with an intrusive pictorial integration consisting of general repainting in tempera over the original.
In 1850–1853 Gaetano Bianchi uncovered the Bardi Chapel frescoes. The treatment was easy compared with that of the Peruzzi Chapel paintings: the technique and execution
After a maintenance restoration at the time of the Mostra Giottesca in 1937, in 1958–1961 both chapels were the focus of a new campaign. Carried out by Leonetto Tintori under the direction of Ugo Procacci, the treatment resulted in the removal of all the repainted areas. Since then, however, little attention has been paid to the chapels from a technical point of view. My project focuses on the elaboration of new results from an investigation carried out in 2009–2012 by the Opificio
The team of experts chose as case studies two scenes, one from each chapel, which incorporate the main technical features and the conservation problems of the painted cycles: The Apparition of Saint Francis at Arles in the Bardi Chapel and The Resurrection of Drusiana in the Peruzzi Chapel. Analyses have been performed on these to obtain more precise knowledge of artistic techniques and conservation issues. The documentation that I am using consists of both overall digital photography of each complete cycle in diffused visible light and graphic documentation of Giotto’s original technique and its subsequent deterioration. Through close-up examination of the paintings under visible, raking, and ultraviolet light, the conservators have observed and recorded information regarding the original technique—such as evidence of preparatory drawings, snap lines,
During my time at CASVA, I studied in depth the results of these investigations, linking the technical and material evidence with art-historical questions of dating and workshop practice. The opportunity to reflect allowed me to outline a new and long-overdue book on the techniques of Giotto’s late period. Such a publication will also be very useful for a reconsideration of the chronology of Giotto’s works and the key role of his late wall paintings in the later development of Florentine Trecento art.