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Cimabue’s and Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned Paintings Term Paper

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2021


Cimabue and Giotto were two famous Renaissance painters who have left some of the best paintings, reflecting their impression of life and Christian divinity. As was the custom in those days, the artists concentrated mainly on depicting the Church, Christ and the Madonna in various forms. In this paper, the painting of Madonna Enthroned that was painted by them would be discussed and analyzed to find the subtle difference in style, geometry and representation.

Discussion of the Pictures

Following table gives shows the images that would be discussed:

Picture one
Giotto, 1400, Madonna Enthroned, (Giotto, 1400)
Picture two
Cimabue, 1285, Madonna and Child Enthroned with eight angels and four prophets, (Cimabue, 1285)

As seen in the above table, the works of the two artists on the same theme have been presented and they would be analyzed. It must be mentioned that Giotto was a pupil of Cimabue.

Cimabue believed in representing beauty and serenity and this is represented in his paintings while Giotto attempted to bring out the ugliness in his subject and he was in fact known for painting ugly babies. Cimabue’s paintings has many of the similar Byzantine icons of the era and some of them are folds in the garments are pressed and almost standardized, the halo is golden hue and plate sized, all the subjects have almost identical postures, gestures and the neck is tilted to the left or to the right and there is a flat, decorative background that reminds one as if the painting has been done in beaten gold plate. The painting is meant to represent an aloof look and majestic since it is supposed to represent divine representation. While the prophets at the bottom are directly looking at the viewer, the angels on the sides of the throne are seeing either to the left or the right, in their own plane of vision. They are neither staring at infant Jesus or at Madonna but somewhere in the central region of the duo. The characters it can be said are fleshy and while not corpulent, they are certainly full. Characters have more elegance, refinement, grace and beauty and there is a feeling of being crowded with a number of figures. Empty space has been avoided and details of the throne are submerged in the golden hue of the throne. The throne does not have any floor and appears just to rise. In his urge for using space and trying to fit in as many characters as possible, the prophets are shown at the base of the throne. Two prophets at the bottom left and right are almost identical and seem to be mirror images, with the same clothing, beard and folds in the clothes and they seem to be straining to look up at Madonna. The two prophets in the middle are more sedate and stare directly at the viewer (Vaughn, 2000).

Giotto’s representation of Madonna is different from the manner in which Cimabue has done. It is reported that Giotto was a very ugly man and his children were reputed to be very ugly with dark and squat features. This fact can be seen in his work where he has shown the infant Jesus as dark and ugly. The throne on which Madonna sits is full and there is a protective arch over her head and the background seems to be barren and stark, as if it was hewed out of a wood cut. The robes and gowns that Madonna wear is dark and somber, almost black, with the folds falling in less disarray. Clothing of the angels is also dark and varies from shades of tan to gray. In simple words, the image is not meant to show the Madonna as a figure of luxury but rather as drab and almost rustic in appearance and Giotto has attempted to depict the true character of the mother, that of simplicity and something than the common people could relate to. There is less of a crowd in the painting and the artist has given more space to the mother and infant Jesus while the other subjects and angles are huddled at the sides. There are two angels at the bottom, complete with halo and wings and it can be seen that all the characters are peering up at the holy mother. The throne appears to be made of wood and is firmly resting on the ground and it is a study in simplicity. In order to give more importance to the holy mother and the infant Jesus, the sides of the thrones and the legs are spindly and simplistic in form and this is an attempt to utilize space to the maximum. However, it can be seen that there is empty space at the top left and right and while the artist could have painted some images in this areas, he has deliberate kept them empty, so that the focus would shift to the mother and son duo (Miller, 1973).

Final Comparison of the works

The two paintings are a study in contrast and various differences and comparison are as given below:

  • Madonna and Infant Jesus: Cimabue believed in luxury and has shown the mother and infant in their fully glory. Both are blonde, good-looking with classic golden looks for which the Italians are so famous. Giotto has shown them as drab and plain looking and the infant is downright ugly. The clothes worn by the duo are also a study in comparison. Cimabue has used rich colors and woven a rich tapestry into the picture, the cloth falls in rich folds and it can be seen that the duo with their golden looks and golden halo are meant to look different and as gods. Giotto on the other hand believed in simplicity and has shown the dup as very drab and plain characters and as Gods of the common masses. The clothes are dull and dark and add more support that to Giotto, the holy dup were gods of the masses and his representation is the same (Giorgio, 1965).
  • Other Characters: Cimabue has shown the angels and the prophets in the same theme of the holy duo and they can be seen with rich clothes and colors and all of them have their heads tilted to the sides. Giotto has shown the angels as drab and simple characters who are driven by motives of piety rather than richness (Adams, 2001).


The paper has examined how Cimabue and Giotto have represented Madonna by analyzing the paintings Madonna Enthroned. Basic differences and representations of the characters have been analyzed in detail.


Adams, Laurie Schneider. 2001. Italian Renaissance Art. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 420

Cimabue. 1285. Madonna Enthroned. 2008. Web.

Giorgio Vasari. 1965. Lives of the Artists, trans. George Bull, Penguin Classics.

Giotto. 1400. Madonna Enthroned. 2008.

Miller Joseph W. 1973. Cimabue and Giotto. Works Progress Administration, National Radio Division.

Vaughn, William. 2000. Encyclopedia of Artists. Oxford University Press, Inc.

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IvyPanda. "Cimabue's and Giotto's Madonna Enthroned Paintings." October 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cimabues-and-giottos-madonna-enthroned-paintings/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Cimabue's and Giotto's Madonna Enthroned Paintings." October 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cimabues-and-giottos-madonna-enthroned-paintings/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cimabue's and Giotto's Madonna Enthroned Paintings'. 7 October.

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