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Piety and Propriety in the Arena Chapel

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Giotto's frescos in the Arena Chapel in Padua are among the most significant works in the history of Western art, marking a radical and influential stylistic change. Just like the literature of devotion and conduct, which is explored here, the frescos offer exemplars of social decorum and propriety for members of the congregation to follow in their daily lives. The chapel was originally conceived as the household chapel of the Palazzo Scrovegni, and it is this aspect of the imagery of Giotto's frescos, The Early Life of the Virgin and The Life and Passion of Christ (completed 1309), which is examined. An internationally widespread ideology laid down formal behavioural codes for members of the upper and middle classes, and Giotto's narrative paintings give such ideas visual expression, presenting members of the Scrovegni family with models of piety and propriety relevant to their own social situation.
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Keywords: Giotto (Arena Chapel frescos, Padua); Italy (Padua); Painting; Piety; Scrovegni (family); Social conduct

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1998

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