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13.6.04

Giotto Frescoes in Paris?

An article (Dans la lumière de Giotto [In Giotto's light], June 11) by Anne-Marie Romero in Le Figaro gave some information on an unusual exhibit, Giotto—Saint François, l'humilité radieuse (Giotto—Saint Francis, radiant humility), in the chapel of the Sorbonne:

For several weeks the chapel of the Sorbonne has been transformed into the basilica of Assisi. For a length of 62 meters [203 feet], its nave and transept show side by side the 28 famous scenes of the life of Saint Francis, the first masterpiece of a young painter named Giotto, from 1297. Of course, these are not the actual frescoes he painted, miraculously spared by the 1997 earthquake, which cannot be moved, but immense photographs, almost lifesize: a project undertaken by Ars Latina, which has gotten us used to these spectacular art exhibits with the great Lascaux bull or the Jesuit missions of South America. [. . .]

It is hard to explain this important commission without knowing about the disorder that rocked the Franciscan family after its founder's death. Poverty was the key word of this draper's son, a rich man who gave up everything, and simplicity (simplex et idiota, as he named himself), but poverty to what degree? The order was divided between purists who wanted to remain a mendicant order, without home or hearth, and traditional monks, who were supported by the Church, which wanted to put some order into what this possibly dangerous apocalyptic mystic had created. After many troubles, one Bonaventura de Bonaregio [should be Bagnoregio], now a saint, became the order's superior general. He decided to do away with all of the saint's biographies, to be replaced with a new official one, the Legenda Maior, and to ask Giotto to draw from it to illustrate the basilica. The iconographic program thus received, in some way, an imprimatur.
The photographs were made by Antonio Quattrone, who has been involved in the other Ars Latina projects mentioned in the article. This exhibit will last until July 10 July 1 and will go to the Château of Chambord from December 2004 to January 2005. According to another article (Fresques de Giotto en photo à la Sorbonne, June 10) from France 2, the photographs were taken prior to the 1997 earthquake.

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