Giotto was not onely a rare Painter, but also an excel∣lent Architect, for all manner of curious conceipt in buil∣ding: and to say truth, was the first who of latter times in Italy brought picture into admiration, and her true height. He was borne at Vespign•••, a village fourete•ne Italian miles from Florence: his father was an husband∣man, and Gi•tt• being a Boy of some twelue yeares of age, was set by him to keepe sheepe: but Nature hauing ordained him for another end; the Boy while hee was tending his sheepe, would be practising with a sticke vp∣on the sand, or dustie high-way, or vpon void places vp∣on walls with a Coale, to draw whatsoeuer sorted with his fancie. It fortuned on a time, while he was drawing Page 120 the picture of one of his sheepe, Cimabus to passe by, who admiring such Art in the Boyes draught, (who had neuer any other direction saue out of his naturall incli∣nation) demanded of him if he would dwell with him: who answered, Yea, if his father were so contented. The father agreed, and placed him with Cimabus, who in short time so excelled, that he farre surpassed the rusticke Greeke manner of working, bringing forth a better Mo∣derne Art, and the true working by the life, which had not beene knowne in two hundred yeares before. He was very inward and familiar with Dantes the Poet, whose picture he drew: he was of all others famous for his skill and conceipt in expressing affections, and all manner of gesture, so that he might be truly called Natures Schol∣ler. His workmanship is especially seene at Acesi, a Citie of Vmbria, in the Cloisters of S. Francis, where the bo∣dy of S. Francis lyeth buried: where among other rare inuentions of his, is to be seene a Monke kneeling before Obedience, who putteth a yoake vpon his necke, he hol∣ding vp both his hands to heauen, and shee laying her forefinger vpon her mouth, casteth vp her eyes towards Christ, from whose side the blood issueth in great abun∣dance. On either hand of her stand wisedome and humili∣ty, to shew where true obedience is, there is wisedome and humility, which helpe to finish euery good worke: on the other side is an historie where chastity standeth vpon a strong and high rocke, as not to be won, or mooued by the force of kings, though they seeme to offer Crownes, Scepters, and Palmes. At her feete lyeth purity, in the shape of a childe washing it selfe, and by chastity standeth pennance, hauing diuen away with her discipline win∣ged Loue: in a third place standeth pouerty barefooted, treading vpon thornes, a dogge barking at her; at one side, a child throwing stones at her, on the other, another child with a sticke putting the thornes towards her legs. This pouerty is marryed to Saint Francis, whom Christ Page 121 giueth by ioying their hands: in a fourth place is Saint Francis, praying with such great deuotion, and inward affection expressed in his countenance, that it detaineth the beholder with singular admiration. From thence re∣turning toward Florence, he wrought in distemper (as we call it) or wet with size, sixe histories of patient I•b, wherein are many excellent figures: among others the positures and countenances of the messengers bringing the sorrowfull newes vnto him, which are not to be men∣ded: withall a seruant, with one hand keeping off the slies from his sore master, and with the other stopping his nose: the countenances and draperies of the standers by done with such grace and iudgement, that the same here∣of presently went ouer all Italy. Insomuch that Pope Benedict sent a messenger from Rome into Tuscany to know what manner of man Giotto was, and what his workes were; beeing purposed to beautifie Saint Peters Church with sacred Histories by the hand of some excel∣lent master. This Messenger or Courtier from the Pope, taking his iourney to Florence, passed by Siena, and still en∣quiring out the best masters, tooke a draught of some∣thing from euery one of them to carry back to the Pope, to choose as he thought best: comming to Florence in a morning betimes, he came to the shop of Giotto, desiring (as he had done of others) to giue him a touch with his pencill, or some peece to show his Holinesse. Giotto being merily disposed, tooke a sheete of paper, vpon which, with a pencill (setting one arme vnder his side) hee drew so absolute a Circle, that by no co•∣passe a truer could be drawne; hauing done, smiling he gaue it to the Cour••ier, saying, There is my draught. The Cour•ier imagining he had flouted him, said, is this all? Giotto replyed, it is all, and more then enough. When the Pope with others of iudgement saw it, and heard the manner how carelesly he did it, he admired and confessed, he passed all men of his time in excellency it this being knowne, it grew a pro∣uerbe Page 122 in Italy, M•re round then Giotto's Circle. The Pope after this, did him much honour, and very liberally re∣warded him. Hee had painted vpon a certaine wall the picture of the Virgin Mary, and when this wall was to be mended, such care (by reason of the excellency of his Art) was had of this picture, that it was cut square and taken downe whole out of the wall with a great deale of paine and cost. He made in Mosai•••, in the fore court of Saint Peter, the ship wherein Peter and the Apostles were in danger of drowning, their actions and gestures full of feare, the sailes full of wind, with the behauiour of Fisher∣men in such extremitie. At Avag•••, hee wrought for Pope Cle•••• the fift; & in many other places of France his workes are yet remaining. Anno 1316. he was at last sent for by Robert king of Naples, for whom there (in the Church of the Cloyster of Saint Clare) he made ma∣ny histories both of the old and new Testament, with the whole historie of the Reuelation: it is said that herein his invention was admirable, and that he was much holpen by his deare and ingenious friend Dan•es the Poet. The King was not onely pleased with the excellencie of his hand, but with his many witty answers and conceipts; wherefore sometime he would sit by him halfe a day to∣gether to see him worke. Once the King said vnto him, Giotto I will make thee the foremost man of my Court; I beleeue it (quoth Giotto) and that (I thinke) is the reason why I am lodged in the Porters lodge at your Court gate. Another time also the King said thus vnto him, Giotto, if I were as thou, the weather is so exceeding hot, I would giue ouer Painting for a while; whereunto Giotto replyed, Indeed Sir, if I were as you, I would let it rest indeed. Another time, being at worke in the great Hall of the Court, the King merily requested him, to paint him out his kingdome; Giotto made no more adoe, but presently painted an Affe with a Saddle on his backe, and smelling at another new saddle that lay before him Page 123 at his feet, as if he had had a mind to that, rather then the other vpon his backe; and vpon each saddle a crowne and a Scepter: the King demanded what he meant there∣by; Giotto replyed, Such is your Kingdome and Subiects, for they desire new Lords daily. In his returning to Fl•∣rence, he made very many rare peeces by the way, deui∣sed many excellent Models for building; beside other his workes in Caruing, Plaistique, &c. The Citie of Flo∣rence not onely Roially rewarded him, but gaue him and his posteritie a Pension of an hundred crownes a yeare, which was a great summe in those times.
He died to the griefe of many, in the yeare 1336. and was buried at Florence, vpon whom Angelus Politia∣nus wrote this Epitaph worthy so excellent a man.