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Giotto and Workshop, Pentecost

Key facts
Full title Pentecost
Artist Giotto and Workshop
Artist dates about 1267 or 1276; died 1337
Date made probably about 1310-18
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 45.5 × 44 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Geraldine Emily Coningham in memory of her husband, Major Henry Coningham, and of Mrs Coningham of Brighton, 1942
Inventory number NG5360
Location Gallery F
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Giotto and Workshop

This small painting of the Pentecost shows Giotto’s skill at transforming complex biblical stories into images that were easy to decipher. Jesus’s followers were gathered together 50 days after his Crucifixion to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Weeks. A strong wind began to blow and flames like ‘tongues of fire’ appeared on their heads. They were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak miraculously in a number of languages. A white dove radiating gilded rays, representing the Holy Ghost, has appeared directly beneath the central gable.

Giotto solved the problem of illustrating the narrative clearly by using a low wall to divide those experiencing the event and those straining to hear what was going on. The symmetrical arrangement of the figures focuses our attention on the dove. This picture was the final scene in a horizontal dossal – an altarpiece that was placed in front of rather than above an altar – depicting the life and Passion of Christ.

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