Cimabue - Giotto's teacher - Florence, Italy
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Cimabue

painting of woman and baby
Madonna and Jesus, in Louvre Museum, Paris

Cimabue (really Cenno di Pepe, but people call him Cimabue) was born in Florence, Italy, around 1240 AD, in the Middle Ages. Cimabue (chee-MA-boo-ay) worked in and around Florence his whole life. He worked on the mosaics decorating the inside of the baptistry and the cathedral in Florence.

pastel-colored painting of a man
Fresco of Jesus, from the church
of St. Francis in Assisi.

Around 1278 AD, Cimabue also did some fresco painting on the walls of the church of Saint Francis at Assisi, south of Florence. When Cimabue was learning to paint in the 1260s AD, Italian painters were still copying the style of Byzantine art, which always had gold backgrounds and showed saints and angels and Jesus and Mary in very formal, stiff positions, to show how important these figures were, and that they were not like real people. They were flat, with very little effort to show their muscles or the shadows that would make them look real.

Cimabue always painted more or less in this Byzantine style. His paintings have gold backgrounds, and the people are very formal and stiff. But he did these paintings in a new, Italian style, where the people look more like real people. Cimabue did use shadows, and he did show muscles. This experimenting helped the younger Italian painter Giotto (who worked with Cimabue at Assisi) see how to develop an even more naturalistic, realistic style.

Cimabue died in Florence around 1302 AD, when he was about sixty years old.

Learn by doing: painting icons
More about Giotto

Bibliography and further reading about medieval art

More about Giotto
More Medieval art
More about the Middle Ages
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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