"Family No. 1"
This week’s featured painting is “Family No. 1” from 2022. It is done with oil on panel, and measures 2 x 5 inches.
In the early 1300s, Pope Benedict XI sent out emissaries to find the best artists in Italy for an important commission.
These officials met with numerous artists, and requested samples of their work to take back to Rome for evaluation.
Among the artists approached was Giotto.
When he learned of the request for sample work, he pulled out a fresh sheet of paper and charcoal, and proceeded to draw a perfect circle freehand – without any mechanical assistance – and handed it to the emissary.
That official, of course, could not believe that this was the sample, but Giotto assured him that the Pope would understand significance.
So the emmissary returned to Rome and laid the samples before the Pope. On seeing Giotto’s circle, the Pope immediately understood – the one who can create the simplest form with absolute perfection can do anything.
Giotto, of course, got the commission.
It’s a great story – it comes from Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Great Masters” written around 1550, (well worth reading for some good stories about great artists).
And it doesn’t even matter if it actually happened.
Like many similar legends, it contains a deeper truth – that a few simple forms underlie almost all art, and an artist should return to study these forms over and over… because they are nowhere nearly as easy as they look.