Who is Giotto in Fra Lippo Lippi by Robert Browning?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Giotto appears in "Fra Lippo Lippi" by Robert Browning in lines 189 sq.:

Here's Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God,
That sets us praising — why not stop with him?              190
Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head
With wonder at lines, colors, and what not?
Paint the soul, never mind the legs and arms!

Giotto di Bondone (1266-67 – 1337) was a famous Italian painter, probably known to Browning not only through his surviving works but through the biographical information presented in Vasari's Lives of the Artists. The paintings referred to may be a series on St. Francis that is no longer attributed to Giotto, but was so attributed in Browning's period.

Browning's dramatic monologue was written in the voice of Fra' Filippo Lippi (1406 – 1469), an artist also known to Browning through Vasari, who was rather notable for his many sexual relationships and his belief that religious painting should portray every physical detail of the world (God's creation) accurately, in contrast to what he sees as the idealized iconography of Giotto.

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