Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Giotto: Spy Wednesday

Judas' Betrayal
From today's gospel:

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Matthew 26:14-16

...woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”
Matthew 26:24-25

Surely those are some of the most frightening words ever said.

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I hope that you can enlarge this picture (click once) enough so that you can see the expressions on the faces. It looks very much like every shady deal that ever took place in a back room. Judas has Cassius's lean and hungry look. The evil one looks almost comic at this size, but not so much magnified. On a website called Everything2, I found an article that says:
...this strange image of the Devil is notable for the manner in which it echoes the figure of Judas (or vice versa), especially in the positioning of the head, hands and beard, as well as the arches of his shoulder and lower torso, which correspond to the curves of Judas’ robe.  
Although I think the author draws the wrong conclusion from this (that the devil is purely figurative), I can see what he's talking about. And what is that black shape over Judas' head? Is it a black halo, and is the reason we can't see the rest of it because the picture was damaged in some way where there appears to be a crack in the plaster? I was looking for some commentary on that when I found the above article. One interesting thing about this picture is that the frescoes in the chapel are arranged in three ranks and in chronological order. This image is out of order, coming after and not before the Last Supper. This places it on the front wall of the nave, just to the left of the sanctuary. Is is just opposite the fresco of the Visitation, and you can see, very similar in style and color--two very different sorts of meetings.

See how the color of the robes in each picture is almost a mirror image or the other. There's even a dark space behind St. Anne. And in both pictures, look how they are looking into each other's eyes.

When I started posting these frescoes by Giotto, I thought that it would be much less time-consuming than posting all of Fra Angelico's pictures last year, and it will be because there are fewer pictures and I don't have to translate Latin. Still, it is taking up much more time than I thought it would because I keep having questions about the artwork, and the questions lead me to more and more information that I find fascinating.

All pictures are from the Web Gallery of Art.



  1. I am very much enjoying these posts, Janet. Such great paintings.

  2. Thanks, Craig. I am enjoying writing them. If I didn't have to work, I would be locked in a room with a bunch of art history books.

    Thanks for the comment, too. Holy Week is not the best time to try and jumpstart your blog. ;-)