14th Century: Giotto (c. 1267-1337)

With his brush, the severity of religious icons melted into warm humanity, and the face of the Godlike became the face of man

Put yourself back to a time before true mirrors. In Europe the art of painting had been lost to the ruthless destruction of barbarians. No Western man could see a real likeness of humankind upon a wall because no artist knew how to draw one. The pictures that adorned medieval churches--there was no secular painting--eschewed reality for decoration or dogma. Gilt-bedizened Madonnas with flat, staring eyes holding outsize infant Christs bespoke not man but the supernatural mystery of the faith.

Then came Giotto. He was an artisan like countless others of the age, though he possessed something his predecessors and contemporaries...

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