Bishop Pontano and the Magdalen

Bishop Pontano and the Magdalen


Giotto Assisi lower church Magdalen Pontano

In the dedicatory scene, Mary Magdalen, wearing a pinkish red dress sumptuously trimmed in gold, takes the hand of Cardinal Pontano, who kneels before her. She stands to one side of the large, rectangular fresco, her figure set off by the blue background. The scene is enclosed within a marvellous frame painted to imitate red marble, trimmed in white, and ornamented with fictive mosaic inlays. At each side is a solid twisted column embellished with a spiralling strip of Cosmati work.

There is a similarity between the latest frescoes of the Arena Chapel and the frescoes depicting the stories of Mary Magdalen in the Magdalen Chapel of the Lower Church at Assisi. The fact that Giotto’s assistants were allowed greater freedom in the execution of the Assisi frescoes does not mean that he was not directly involved. There was more wall space at the artists’ disposal in the Magdalen Chapel than at Padua, and the two scenes that appear in both places, the Raising of Lazarus and the Noli me tangere are consequently larger and more imposing.

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