Our visual powers

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Giotto, Madonna Enthroned. Circa 1310. Tempera and gold on wood, 10 feet inches × 6 feet 8⅜ inches. Uffizi, Florence.

Giotto, credited with creating a realistic portrayal of figures from nature in religious art, lavishes his Madonna Enthroned with extraordinary detail permitted by the use of tempera and gold leaf. Giotto was one of Florence’s greatest painters.


Because many churches and other buildings required paintings directly on plaster walls, artists perfected the use of fresco, pigment dissolved in lime water applied to wet plaster as it is drying. In the case of wet fresco, the color penetrates to about one-eighth of an inch and is bound into the plaster. There is little room for error Page 67because the plaster dries relatively quickly, and the artist must understand how the colors will look when embedded in plaster and no longer wet. One advantage of this medium is that it will last as long as the wall itself. One of the greatest examples of the use of fresco is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, on the ceiling of which is the famous Creation of Adam (Figure 4-3).

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