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Art Restorers Find Detail of Devil in Giotto Fresco

Giotto Fresco in Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi

Restorers have discovered a little detail while working on some clouds in a fresco by Giotto. It appears like a horned man (who must be the devil right?) has been floating in the clouds of fresco number 20 in a cycle of scenes depicting the life and death of St. Francis painted in the 13th century by Giotto di Bondone.

It has been suggested by Sergio Fusetti, the Chief restorer of the basilica, that Giotto probably didn’t want the image of the devil to be the main part of the fresco, and may have painted in “to have a bit of fun.” The detail was discovered by Italian historian Chiara Frugone.


Although it is difficult to make it out from the ground, in a zoomed in picture you can make out a figure with dark horns fixed into the clouds attached to a face with a sly smile, and a hooked nose. The scene is that of St. Francis’s death. Ironic.



2 responses

  1. I love Giotto. My father was an amateur painter and kept books of medieval and Gothic art that I wold look at for hours as a child (the Gothic art often showed naked Venus and Eve that made me feel… weird, so it was my first porn). Needless to say I grew up to be an amateur medieval scholar. Preamble over. The horned man, if that is indeed what we are seeing, is most likely Moses. Many, if not most, medieval paintings and sculptures of Moses show him with horns due to a corrupt Hebrew-to-Latin translation in the Vulgate, the predominate scriptural rendering until the reformation. Michelangelo gives Moses horns in several works. I believe that it comes from a passage in Exodus where Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and the verse says that his “face shone because he had been talking to God.” Shone, meaning glowed. The Latin word used cornuta, but instead of meaning something like “corona” it was taken as “cornu”- horns. That Saint Jerome!
    Just a thought.

    November 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm

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