During artists of his time is the use of

the 13th century, artists began to move away from traditional Italo Byzantine
style to embrace the ideas of Humanism and the differences between these two
styles can be found through the details of the artwork. Italo-Byzantine
characteristics include gold details and unrealistic sense of space while the
new style reflects life-like figures with more depth and perspective. Florentine
artist Cenni di Pepo, better known as Cimabue, is one of the first artists to
make a transition from the Italo-Byzantine style to naturalism; two different techniques
that are demonstrated in the painting, Madonna
Enthroned with Angels and Prophets. Although
his artwork remained mostly fixed in the Italo-Byzantine style, he made several
noticeable changes with space and proportion in artwork that hinted at the
coming of a new style. In his altarpiece, Madonna Enthroned with Angels and
Prophet, Cimabue creates a space with more depth for the Madonna and Child
to exist in. Previous altarpieces were completely flat and two-dimensional.
Cimabue’s observation of the world around him allowed him to illuminate a
realistic looking throne that plunges into the background of the altarpiece,
giving it a more realistic three-dimensional feel.  He also took gold
embellishment, a common feature of Italo-Byzantine art mainly used for decoration,
and utilized it to create the folds in Mary’s robes, giving her a more
humanistic figure.

Madonna Enthroned with Angels and
Prophets, is one of Cimabue’s early works that shows a
glorified Virgin Madonna holding Christ Child, surrounded by a host of angels
and prophets. Italo-Byzantine art includes elongation of figures that lack
naturalism, but makes features look more elegant. As the new style emerged,
Cimabue showed more interest in depicting space and using gradations of light and
shade to give his figures more volume and the illusion that a space is opening
in front of the viewer. The older techniques of Byzantine tradition are present
in the elongated features of the Virgin’s face; her long nose and almond shaped
eyes. Compared to the Virgin, the child is quite small and has the appropriate
scale of an infant, however, he has features of a grown man rather than a baby.
Perhaps this is a symbolic rendering that Christ is shown as a man of wisdom, but
this technique was common for this period. The thing that made Cimabue different
from most artists of his time is the use of dimensional techniques to give a
more naturalistic style. Cimabue experimented with lines especially in the
diagonal lines of the throne to create a sense of depth; the use of gold lines
to articulate the folds of drapery gives the illusion of a 3-dimensional space.
The drapery folds more naturally following the movements of the bodies as you
can see in the cloaks of the two angels at the foot of the virgin. Their knees seem
to be protruding out rather than looking flat giving the illusion of space.
Cimabue also demonstrates a concern for 3-dimensional space in his shading
techniques giving it a sense of perspective; this style is characterized by a
more lifelike manner of showing figure and space. Cimabue’s delicate palate
includes shaded tones, notably in the angel’s wings. By making the background scenes
with more depth, the figures look more natural and life-like.

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            Madonna Enthroned
with Angels and Prophets marks the break from Italo-byzantine art to artwork
with more dimension, weight, perspective using three-dimensional space, and natural-looking human forms. Cimabue
combines common features of Italo-Byzantine techniques with the close
observation of the world in pursuit to revive naturalism through his work. Madonna Enthroned, which combines the
old and new, lives as the foundation of a new form of art that influenced
artists throughout the 14th century.