Forget Jesus in your toast – an art historian is claiming to have found the face of the devil in a Giotto fresco.
The fresco in question is on display in a basilica in Umbria, Italy, and was painted by Giotto di Bondone. The satanic mug is said to appear in the corner of a cloud depicted in the 700-year-old fresco. It was spotted by medievalist (and expert on St. Francis, who appears in the image) Chiara Frugoni. Here’s what she wrote in a forthcoming edition of the St. Francis art history periodical:
“It’s a powerful portrait, with a hooked nose, sunken eyes and two dark horns. The significance of the image still needs to be delved into. In the Middle Ages it was believed that demons lived in the sky and that they could impede the ascension of human souls to Heaven. Until now it was thought that the first painter to use clouds in this way was Andrea Mantegna, with a painting of St Sebastian from 1460, in which high up in the sky there’s a cloud from which a knight on horseback emerges. Now we know that Giotto was the first (to use this technique).”
Others appear happy to echo her observation. Claudio Strinati, an art historian, points out it was quite ordinary for hidden meanings to appear in Renaissance works: “Paintings often had two facets, an explicit one and an implicit one.”
Personally, I find it dubious – it seems like it could easily be a few coincidental brushtrokes, and the face hardly leaps out at you. In fact, it took me a couple of minutes to detect the alleged face, so I drew an outline in the image below:
What say you, readers?