Baroncelli altarpiece, c.1328
Giotto Baroncelli altarpiece c1328
Giotto Baroncelli Polyptych
Tempera on wood, 185 x 323 cm
Baroncelli Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence
Baroncelli Polyptych certainly represents the peak of Giotto’s late period panel paintings, and is the only work to still be found in its original place. The name derives from the Baroncelli family, who commissioned the altarpiece in 1327 for the chapel donated by them, and dedicated to the Madonna of the Annunciation in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence. The chapel was decorated between 1328 and 1335 by Taddeo Gaddi, a pupil of Giotto’s. The altarpiece’s somewhat mutilated and with a 15th century frame – still adorns this chapel today. When the frame was redesigned, parts of the old frame were used to strengthen its rear side. A reconstruction has shown that the five panels were originally divided by broad, silver-plated pilasters, that predella and altar panels therefore fitted together exactly.
The central pinnacle was removed to allow a rectangular frame in the 15th
century and that triangular piece is now at the San Diego Museum of Art ).
It shows God the father in a quatrefoil with angels shielding their eyes from
his radiance as they look at him.
The five panels are composed as one continuous pictorial space. We are looking at a heaven whose perspective is not distinct and whose width is opened out by a choir of heavenly figures on the side panels that seem to go on forever. The rows of figures throng together to form a radiant, brightly-colored assembly, observing the solemn occasion of the Virgin being crowned Queen of Heaven by her son and providing musical accompaniment. The central panel, where the main figures are portrayed on a slightly larger scale, succeeds in developing space a little more clearly.