Cimabue Cenni di Peppi

'The  Father of Italian Painting'


 Italian   Byzantine Style  Painter

 Artistically and Stylistically Influenced by the following Painters and : - Coppo di Marcovaldo

Education - apprenticed at age 10 to local Greek icon makers and later  a gold smith

Medium - Tempera on wood

Cause of death - bloody flux compounded by an advanced age. He is buried in the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore ( Cathedral of Florence) inscribed on his tomb: “Cimabue thought himself master of the field of painting. While living, he was so. Now he holds his place among the stars of heaven.”

Cimabue is best known for his poetically conceived,  graceful, contemplative Madonnas.  His holy figures are seemingly detached from the world in silent contemplation. The painter was Intent on mesmerizing and enlightening the viewer with the ethereal beauty of his work.  Eminent art historian and author, John C. Van Dyke explains "Cimabue seems the most notable instance in early times of a Byzantine-educated painter who improved upon the traditions. He has been called the father of Italian painting, but Italian painting had no father. Cimabue was simply a man of more originality and ability than his contemporaries, and departed further from the art teachings of the time without decidedly opposing them. He retained the Byzantine pattern, but loosened the lines of drapery somewhat, turned the head to one side, infused the figure with a little appearance of life. His contemporaries elsewhere in Italy were doing the same thing, and none of them was any more than a link in the progressive chain."

Not until the thirteenth century, in the works of Florentine master Cimabue, is a change in religious painting perceptible. The Christ-child becomes more childish and tender; and a soft inclination of the head of the Madonna shows that she hears the prayers of men and can bring help and gracious forgiveness. The hard, sullen features are animated by softness and charm, by human sentiment; and it is in this sense that Vasari wrote that through Cimabue more love had come into art. 

According to art historian Clara Erskine Clement "The Cimabui were a noble family, and Giovanni was allowed to follow his own taste, and became a painter; he was also skilled in mosaic work, and during the last years of his life held the office of master of the mosaic workers in the Cathedral of Pisa, where some of his own mosaics still remain.

Of his wall-paintings I shall say nothing except to tell you that the finest are in the Upper Church at Assisi, where one sees the first step in the development of the art of Tuscany. But I wish to tell the story of one of his panel pictures, which is very interesting. It is now in the Rucellai Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria Novella, in Florence, and it is only just in me to say that if one of my readers walked through that church and did not know about this picture, it is doubtful if he would stop to look at it—certainly he would not admire it. The story is that when Cimabue was about thirty years old he was busy in painting this picture of the Madonna Enthroned, and he would not allow any one to see what he was doing."

Cimabue was a gloomy genius. He painted with  passion and naturalism, thus building the groundwork for the Renaissance.  He aspired to reawaken the divine spirit of holy figures rather than depict their physical qualities.  He was influenced by Coppo di Marcovaldo yet forged his own unique style within the tradition of religious Byzantine painting. The mysticism in his work is apparent as he conveys a profound awareness of  his fellow man.

He maintained an industrious studio and mentored many your artists including Giotto. He was known for his generosity with the local vagabonds and stray cats. Often allowing lepers and beggars to stay in his stables and adjacent out buildings. At one time he is said to have cared for 33 cats. Cimabue died in the year of 1302.

 Few of Cimabue's paintings or mosaics  are to be found. Artists of the Middle Ages typically were so traumatized by stories of  torture, persecution and death during the Iconoclast that they did not even sign their works.  This makes it hard to identify many medieval art-works.

Byzantine 500-1450  Romanesque 950-1250
Gothic 1150-1580 Florentine
Sienese School 1150-1550 Venetian
Early Renaissance  1350-1500  
High Renaissance 1450-1530  
Northern Renaissance 1350-1600  
Mannerism  1510-1600  
Baroque 1600-1750  
Rococo  1710-1790  
Neoclassical 1740-1835  
Romanticism 1750-1860  
Hudson River School 1825-1880  
Orientalism 1800-1885  
Academic Classicism 1865-1920   
Victorian Classicism 1845-1895  
Pre-Raphaelite 1840-1855  
Impressionism 1860-1895
Symbolism  1860-1910
Postimpressionism 1882-1915
Pointillism  1885-1903
Nabis 1890-1898
Tonalism 1880-1920
Art Nouveau 1890-1920
Art Deco 1915-1940
Cubism 1905-1920

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