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Dr. Zucker: We're in the Louve and we're looking
at a large altar panel by Giotto of St. Francis.
It's a really spectacular painting.
Dr. Harris: It is, it shows St. Francis receiving
the Stigmata from Christ who appeared to him
in the form of a Seraphim.
What's striking is that this is not St. Francis
in a very iconic frontal way.
Dr. Zucker: As we might have expected in
a more Medieval tradition.
Dr. Harris: Exactly.
Instead Francis is kneeling, he's in a naturalistic
landscape or at the beginnings, we could say,
of a naturalistic landscape.
As he receives the stigmata he looks up in wonder
and awe and confusion, and even some anxiety,
Dr. Zucker: A little fear there, right?
Dr. Harris: Yeah.
Dr. Zucker: But they are very human emotions.
It's really an expression of, you're right,
not an eternal iconic image,
but rather of a moment of a man responding.
Dr. Harris: And his body is rendered
We have modeling, so we see the folds
in the drapery, we see his left knee,
his right knee folded under him,
the modeling in his hands where we see
the stigmata, modeling in his face.
So he really seems like this folky three dimensional
presence, really different from the flat,
transcendent figures of only a little bit earlier.
Dr. Zucker: And actually other artists that are
I want to go back to that point you made
a moment ago of the naturalistic landscape
because this is certainly not naturalism
as we would expect now in the 21st Century,
but it is, at the very beginning of the
14th or at the very end of the 13th Century,
quite an extraordinary innovation to place this
really physical figure as you had described him
in an environment with trees, with mountain.
Dr. Harris: Clearly his scale doesn't match the
building and the trees, but there's an effort here
by Giotto to place him on earth,
not just in a heavenly space.
Dr. Zucker: We see this extraordinary gold filled
background, the light of Heaven pours down
and we see that literally in the divine rays
that go from the Seraphim from Christ
down to Francis, down to his feet, to his hands
and to the wound in his side;
this gift from Heaven for his faithfulness.
It's important to remember that Francis
was a mendicant, a beggar, that he'd given up
his worldly possessions and like the Dominican's,
the Franciscan's would renounce
worldly possessions in honor of Christ.
Initially there are some reports that the church
was not sure that it wanted to accept
St. Francis' ideas.
The predella below is important because it shows
very much the acceptance of Francis.
Dr. Harris: So, we have these three scenes below
in the predella showing Pope Innocent III vision
of Francis supporting a church,
the next of blessing that order of the followers
of St. Francis, the Franciscan's
and then St. Francis preaching to the birds.
Dr. Zucker: Those are all really interesting stories.
This dream of the Pope, this great miracle
in which he dreamt that Francis was
not only supporting a church, but was supporting
a church that was falling down.
It's crucial allegory, of course, or metaphor.
The acceptance of Francis, this central scene,
very, very important; literally the embrace
of the church to this mendicant order.
Dr. Harris: Legitimizing.
Dr. Zucker: That's right, absolutely legitimizing
and if you think about it for a moment,
the mendicant's did represent a kind of threat.
The church was a very wealthy institution,
it was a very powerful institution,
and here were these followers of Christ
saying, Christ preached poverty, I'm taking that on.
For the church to embrace that was a very
Then, of course, on the right this relationship
between Francis and nature.
Francis living in the desert or living in the wilderness
having this direct relationship with all of God's
creation is placed here,
One of the reasons that Francis is often linked
to sort of ecological movements
and often seen a patron of nature.
Dr. Harris: I love the way he reaches out
toward the animals, the way that the figures are
it's very stark against that gold background.
So there's this Heavenly realm,
but simultaneously in an earthly realm.
It seems to me that Giotto has united both.
Dr. Zucker: There's a simplicity to Giotto's work
that includes a kind of emotional directness
that I think has made his work seem incredibly
authentic for many, many years.
Artists are constantly looking back to the
so called Italian Primitives for that sort of
direct vision and here we have it
at it's most beautiful.