Giotto's Tower; the Base and Entrance, Florence, ItalyArtist:
Henry Roderick Newman
, American, about 1843 - c.1917
Material and Medium: watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 646 x 514mm
Sight size: 480 x 345mm
Accession Number: CGSG00055
‘Giotto’s Tower’ is a common name for the campanile or bell tower of Florence’s cathedral. It takes its name from its ‘capomaestro’ or designer, Giotto di Bondone (lived about 1266-1337).
The tower is very decorative with facing in pink, white and green marble. Here Newman has also included some of the hexagonal reliefs (flat sculpture) that decorates the base of the tower. They depict the Sacraments, Virtues, Planets and Mechanical and Liberal Arts.
John Ruskin wrote that the tower 'was the most perfect work of Christian architecture in existence', enjoying its colourful decoration and attractive proportions. He felt that the building was rare for combining an appearance of power and beauty.
He complained though that it was 'enclosed with an iron railing and usually encumbered with lumber as well; not a soul in Florence ever caring now for the sight of any piece of its old artist's work.' In this commission, Newman took care to omit the fence.