Fresco No.20 in a cycle of the scenes chronicling the life and death of St. Francis
Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi
Good old motto! Even in the night in which all cows are black, that is to say in our own “postmodern” age—but this is quite another story. So what? Well, all of the above is just to introduce a very interesting news item which clearly exemplifies the importance of paying attention to details:
Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.
The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.
The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugoni. 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.
The figure is difficult to see from the floor of the basilica but emerges clearly in close-up photography. Sergio Fusetti, the chief restorer of the basilica, said Giotto probably never wanted the image of the devil to be a main part of the fresco and may have painted it in among the clouds 'to have a bit of fun'.
The master may have painted it to spite someone he knew by portraying him as a devil in the painting, Fusetti said on the convent's website.
The artwork in the basilica in the convent where St Francis is buried was last restored after it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1997. [Reuters]
|A detail of the fresco in which the profiled face of a devil is seen |
REUTERS/Basilica of St Francis in Assisi/Handout
However, apart from the pay-attention-to-details thing, there is the problem of finding out/understanding why the master may have hidden the profiled face of a devil with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns in the clouds of one of his most famous frescos in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Perhaps to spite someone he knew by portraying him as a devil and “to have a bit of fun,” as Sergio Fusetti said on the convent’s website? Well, maybe so, maybe not, it’s difficult to say, and I’m no expert on the matter. But then again, as far as I know, a painter who came after generations of “mere” manufacturers of symbols, illustrations, and allegories may have wanted to leave a cryptic message. On the other hand, many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras—used as a representation of evil—the most famous examples of which are those of Notre Dame de Paris. Such representations were intended to objectivize—and distance ourselves from—the evil. And then again, even though Giotto has been called the father of Renaissance art, he was a man of the Middle Ages.
|Click to enlarge|
The moral of the story might be, Not every monster/devil is evil, some are just misunderstood.