Cimabue Paints the Frescos of the Church of San Francesco at Assisi

Cimabue was commissioned to paint two very large frescoes for the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

They are on the walls of the transepts: a Crucifixion and a Deposition. Unfortunately these works are now dim shadows of their original appearance. During occupancy of the building by invading French troops, straw caught fire, severely damaging the frescoes. The white paint was partially composed of silver, which oxidised and turned black, leaving the faces and much of the drapery of the figures in negative.

Florentine painter. His nickname means 'Ox-head'. He was a contemporary of Dante, who refers to him in The Divine Comedy (Purg. xi. 94-6) as an artist who was 'believed to hold the field in painting' only to be eclipsed by Giotto's fame. Ironically enough this passage, meant to illustrate the vanity of short-lived earthly glory, has become the basis for Cimabue's fame; for, embroidering on this reference, later writers made him into the discoverer and teacher of Giotto and regarded him as the first in the long line of great Italian painters. He was said to have worked in the 'Greek' (i.e. Byzantine) manner, but to have begun the movement towards greater realism which culminated in the Renaissance.