Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Cimabue, Giovanni from Philip's Encyclopedia

13th-century Florentine painter, an important transitional link between the rigid Byzantine style of painting and the greater realism of the 14th-century School of Florence. His best-known work is Madonna and Child Enthroned. Cimabue is said to have taught Giotto.


Summary Article: Cimabue, Giovanni (c. 1240–1302)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian painter. Active in Florence, he is traditionally styled the ‘father of Italian painting’. His paintings retain the golden background of Byzantine art but the figures have a new naturalism. Among the works attributed to him are Maestà (c. 1280; Uffizi, Florence), a huge Gothic image of the Virgin, with a novel softness and solidity that points forwards to Giotto.

Very little is known of his life, though he worked in Rome, where he may have received his training, also at Pisa and Florence. He is buried in the cathedral at Florence. The brief reference by his contemporary Dante indicates that he was famous in his own time and believed himself without equal, but was eclipsed in fame by Giotto. Vasari's account of him lacks historical confirmation, and a number of works attributed to him, such as the Rucellai altarpiece of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, are now assigned to Duccio or his school. His only certainly authentic work is the figure of St John in the absidal mosaic of Pisa Cathedral. Frescoes in the Upper Church of St Francis, Assisi (much deteriorated), are credibly attributed to him, and also the versions of the Maestà (Madonna and Child with Angels) now in the Uffizi and Louvre, Byzantine in conception but showing a far from conventional vigour of line and humanity of expression. His Crucifix in Sta Croce, Florence, was damaged by the flood of 1966.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article Cimabue
Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins

Bencivieni (or Cenni) di Pepo (c.1240-c.1302), It. painter, mosaicist. The name reveals something of the artist's proud and impetuous nature. It aro

Full text Article Cimabue, Giovanni
Philip's Encyclopedia

13th-century Florentine painter, an important transitional link between the rigid Byzantine style of painting and the greater realism of the...

Full text Article Cimabue
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

pronunciation Giovanni Cimabue ca1251–1302 orig. Bencivieni di Pepo Florentine painter

See more from Credo