Padova Urbs Picta. Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel and the 14th century painting cycles
Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO
Veneto Region, Province of Padova
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The great development of Padova painting in the 14th century began with the arrival of Giotto, called around 1302, most probably by the Friars Minor Conventual of the Basilica of St. Anthony. Taking advantage of his presence in town, Enrico Scrovegni commissioned him the work that soon became worldwide known as his masterpiece: the Scrovegni Chapel. During the entire 14th century the artists who operated in Padova (Pietro e Giuliano da Rimini; Guariento; Giusto de’ Menabuoi; Jacopo Avanzi; Altichiero; Jacopo da Verona) reinterpreted in an original and autonomous way the style of the Maestro, creating a complete stylistic renovation which soon acquired a national and international range. The Scrovegni Chapel represents the starting point of this phenomenon: additionally, there are at least other eight sites in Padova (mapped in the picture enclosed below) which preserve important painting testimonials of similar artistic and cultural value. The cycles have been exemplarily restored and are all open to the public. It was an extraordinary cultural phase of Padova, promoted by the Signoria and by the most famous family in town, the ‘da Carrara’. In this context, there was also a female commissioner, Fina Buzzaccarini (Lord Francesco da Carrara’s wife), a significant and rare example at that time.
1. Cappella degli Scrovegni (Comune di Padova)
It represents the most significant monument in the proposed series and the best-preserved fresco painting by Giotto. In the chapel are present also other works by the Maestro del Coro Scrovegni and by Giusto de’ Menabuoi.
2. Basilica del Santo (Veneranda Arca del Santo, Delegazione Pontificia, Basilica e Convento di Sant’Antonio)
It is a worldwide famous place of worship, which hosts important frescoes by Giotto (Cappella delle Benedizioni; Sala del Capitolo), Giusto de’ Menabuoi (Cappella del Beato Luca Belludi), Altichiero e Jacopo Avanzi (Cappella di San Giacomo).
3. Palazzo della Ragione (Comune di Padova)
It is the largest pensile salon in Europe, famous for its roofing, shaped as a reversed ship hull. Notwithstanding the original paintings by Giotto were destroyed during a severe fire, it keeps significant proofs of the fourteenth-century art.4. Musei Civici agli Eremitani (Comune di Padova)
It houses important examples of the 14th century Padova painting. In chronological order, the Croce by Giotto (originally painted for the Scrovegni Chapel), the detached frescoes by Pietro da Rimini, the painted panels by Guariento (originally located in the Cappella della Reggia Carrarese), and the detached fresco of Madonna dell’umiltà by Cennino Cennini.5. Cappella della Reggia Carrarese (Accademia Galileiana SS. LL. AA.)
It is located within the building that constitutes the ancient Reggia Carrarese and its frescoes are to be considered the best example of the Padova figurative culture of the mid 14th century, painted by Guariento di Arpo.
6.Oratorio di San Giorgio (Veneranda Arca del Santo, Delegazione Pontificia, Basilica e Convento di Sant’Antonio)
Commissioned by the Marquis Raimondino Lupi di Soragna as family mausoleum, it was entirely decorated with frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio, with sacred episodes which become an occasion to enhance the noble origins of the family.
7. Chiesa dei SS. Filippo e Giacomo agli Eremitani (Parrocchia dei SS. Filippo e Giacomo agli Eremitani - Diocesi di Padova)
Severely damaged during the Second World War, it contains the frescoes commissioned, most likely by the Curtarolo family, to Guariento di Arpo and by Tebaldo Cortellieri’s mother to Giusto de’ Menabuoi.
8. Battistero della Cattedrale (Parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta nella Cattedrale - Diocesi di Padova)
It is an important example of female commission (by Fina Buzzaccarini, wife of Francesco da Carrara, Lord of Padova) and it represents the masterpiece of Giusto de’ Menabuoi.
9. Oratorio di San Michele (Comune di Padova)
It was built on the ruins of an ancient sacred building from the Longboard period, and completely decorated by frescoes commissioned by an important family of Padova (de Bovi). It hosts a dedicatory plaque signed by the artist: Jacopo da Verona, fellow of Altichiero in San Giorgio.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The ensemble of the works in Padova by Giotto and the masters who were inspired by him for the whole 14th century represents a phase of absolute national and international importance in the development of painting, due to the introduction of revolutionary elements.
The Scrovegni Chapel represents the first example in history of a very strong relationship between an artist and his commissioner. Equally important will be the relationships that the other clients, the Friars Minor of the Basilica of St. Anthony and the Lords of Padova will establish with the artists; in this context stands out a unique example of female commitment, Fina Buzzaccarini, for the Battistero della Cattedrale. This resulted in an extraordinary iconographical and stylistic complexity, characterised by very innovative elements in the representation of the architectural spaces, in the perspective lines and in the emotional expression of each individual character.
The usage of architectonical frameworks, both real and painted, to encompass the various scenes, introduced a completely innovative relationship between the ‘painting’ and the ‘built’ parts. This unique ensemble, still perfectly preserved nowadays, can be seen only in Padova, granting the city the value of ‘Capital of the 14th century fresco painting’, which is universally recognised. The wide spectrum of ongoing studies, researches and debates, well signifies the growing interest generated by these masterpieces among the community of experts as well as the tourists and visitors all around the world.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The Scrovegni Chapel and the ensemble of monuments that are included in the candidature proposal of ‘Padova Urbs Picta’ are in a very good state of conservation and with a high level of integrity. The authenticity of the various frescoes, both in case of large and complete works and in case of fragments, was proven by the most advanced restorations carried out in the recent times.
Each of the various institutional owners, who has been managing the cycles, has well protected and preserved them with appropriate restorations and additional restoration interventions. A specific coordination mechanism has been created amongst them with the purpose of improving the management effectiveness and tourist valorisation and fruition.
Comparison with other similar properties
A detailed comparative analysis was carried out at national and international level, considering both the works of the same period (the 14th century) and their relevance for painting at international level. Primarily were considered the examples already entered in the World Heritage List; namely:
- Italy (Historical Centre of Firenze; Piazza del Duomo, Pisa; Assisi, the Basilica of S. Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites; Mantua and Sabbioneta);
- Bulgaria (Boyana Church);
- Cyprus (Painted Churches in Troodos Region);
- France (Historic Centre of Avignone: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge);
- Romania (Churches of Moldavia);
- Russian Federation (Historic Monuments of Novogorod and Surroundings; White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal; Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad);
- Serbia (Stari Ras and Sopoćani; Studenica Monastery, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo);
- Slovakia (Levoča, Spišský Hrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments);
- Turkey (Historic Areas of Istanbul).
The result of this analysis demonstrates that there is no equivalent ensemble of works comparable with those present in Padova, in terms of comprehensive significance, state of conservation and quality of management (including the availability for the public) and current scientific interest.