Pentecost (Scrovegni Chapel, Padua), by Giotto di Bondone (1266–1336)

May 21, 2014

Giotto di Bondone painted a fresco cycle of the life of Christ at the Scrovegni Chapel (also called the Arena Chapel) in Padua, Italy, in 1304–06. Pentecost is the final scene of the cycle. The arrangement of the disciples around a table is similar to the painting of the Last Supper directly opposite on the south wall. Such balance is typical of Giotto. The artist placed the figures inside an architectural space, which creates the illusion that the event occurred within a small church. This is probably the first visual depiction of Pentecost in a prominent location. The Holy Spirit is represented through rays of light emanating from outside the room and above the painted ceiling. It is striking that this series on Christ’s life concludes not with the ascension but with Pentecost, the birth of the church. The image visually anticipates C. K. Barrett’s aphorism, “In Luke’s thought, the end of the story of Jesus is the church.”