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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rounder Than The O, parts 1952 - 1955

1952. Giotto with his gesture makes a fool of the Pope, but he does not get away with it. His prank becomes a legend, and is handed down in the Italian language not as the mark of a wise man or even of a fool. The O of Giotto signifies the dull witted person, the opposite of the man who created it.

1953. You may think I am making up this idea of Giotto or Vasari making fun of the Pope, but the tendency of the artists of that time to abuse, and ridicule the clergy is well known and well documented in stories and legend. Consider this other anecdote from Vasari’s life of Pietro Perugino. To understand this little story it is necessary to know that the color ultramarine blue in the Renaissance cost the same as gold.

1954. Since ultramarine blue was so expensive a pigment, when mural decorations were done in churches, the blue color was doled out as from a vault, and weighed out on a gram scale the same as gold for gilding. In this story Perugino is painting a mural for the church fathers.

1955. From Vasari’s life of Pietro Perugino: There is a story which I have heard told of a prior of a convent who had employed Pietro to paint in its cloisters. This prior was very good at making ultramarine, and having therefore abundance of it, he desired that Pietro should put a great deal into his works; he was, however, so miserably suspicious that he would not trust Pietro, but would always be present when he was using the ultramarine.

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