Giotto di Bondone (better known as just Giotto, 1267-1337) was an Italian painter. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to and developed the Italian Renaissance.
Giotto was born in poverty in the countryside near Florence, the son of Bondone, a peasant, and was himself a shepherd. Most authors believe that Giotto was directly his real name, and not an abbreviation of Ambrogio (Ambrogiotto) or Angelo (Angiolotto).
The legend says (as reported by Giorgio Vasari in his biographies, derived from Ghiberti's Commentari) that at the age of 10, while attending the sheep, he used to draw on the rocks with a chalk. Cimabue saw him drawing a sheep, so natural and so perfect that he immediately asked his father if he could bring Giotto with him to let him study art, and Giotto's career would have started in Cimabue's bottega.
His art was extremely innovative, and is commonly considered as a precursor of that evolution which was to lead, shortly after, to the explosion of the Italian Rinascimento.
He treated the religious themes (quite exclusively used in medieval art) with a new spirit, rendering them with a clear freshness and an unexpected liveliness, and many critics talk about a "human emotion" as the most peculiar feature of his works.
He received commissions for many works throughout Italy, and became a good friend of the king of Naples, as well as of Dante Alighieri. Boccaccio cited him in his Decameron.
The legend also tells that he was able to paint incredibly perfect circles freehand.
Famous works include:
the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua,
the Basilica of S. Francis in Assisi
the chapels in Santa Croce, Florence
the many polyptychs and crucifixes