Gilded in soothing golden and painted in an oceanic blue, the capella degli Scrovegni, an ordinary little chapel in Padua, has more than what meets the eye. Who would have thought a relatively small and modest looking chapel to host a brilliant spectacle of some of the finest religious and spiritual art — skillfully portrayed in a jubilant interplay of myriad colors? Well, perhaps it is not so much of a surprise, given that Italy is one of the earliest cradles of western civilization — a forerunner of the humanitarian movement, and a country with the most number of UNESCO heritage sites.
Tiers of neatly arranged religious paintings and a thirteen meters high, beautiful blue arching vault greets the awe-stricken visitors who step inside the premises of this little wonder. My first impression was that of sheer astonishment and bewilderment and just like many others, I too was surprised by the insides of the chapel; every inch of the chapel is exquisitely painted and the juxtaposition of blue and golden that dominates the scenes bear testimony to the artist’s exceptional sense of color. Visions of blissful heaven and fiery hell are recreated on the altar wall with vivid imagination and skillful artistry. The Messiah in his circle of golden halo sits enthroned between his faithful apostles; on the lower left, seraphs and cherubs sing praises of the most high while on the right, those that have lost favor in God’s eyes lie in wait for their tormented future. As I analyzed this particular interpretation of the Last Judgement, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine chapel. Fear, Punishment, Love, Death, Obedience, Loyalty and Martyrdom — some of the recurring themes of Christian art are depicted all over the chapel.
Giotto, a painter and architect from Florence was commissioned by a wealthy banker named Scrovegni, to design and decorate this chapel. With the aid of around 400 men who worked for more than 600 days, the magnificent frescoes illustrating events from the life and times of Christ, Saint Joachim and the immaculate conception, were completed around the year 1305. The bottom tier featuring seven virtues and seven vices of human nature are embedded in marble-like frames; the symbolic human like representation of the virtues and vices draw inspiration from classical art.
The deep blue ceiling of the chapel is striking and on gazing at it for a while, I entered into a reverie, a reflective state, into the mind of the artist himself. Such is the power of human imagination that conjures powerful imageries of Heaven, Hell and the Mortal Realm; and brings them to life with just a few strokes of the paint brush! Up in Giotto’s blue heaven, the Madonna and the child in a rim of bright gold is the Sun; the prophets encircling the dazzling sun are the planets. Together, they protect and watch over the enthralled visitors from their heavenly abode.
© Copyright: Leah Chrestien. November 2020. The post The Heavens are Blue | Scrovegni Chapel | Padua first appeared on The Ecstatic Storyteller. The author reserves the right to the content and the pictures. No reproduction of content or picture in any form is permitted without the prior consent of the author.