Key words£ºGiotto, cirlce, drawing, round 
¡¡ ¡¡ ¡¡
Genre£ºlegend Topic£ºpainting,art Words:400
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"...with one turn of the hand, he drew a circle so perfect and exact
that it was a marvel to behold."

The round O of Giotto

Author£ºAmy Steedman Source£º  
Nation£ºItaly Date£º2008-8-19

(Statue of Giotto di Bondone)

When Giotto(1267-1337) was beginning to grow famous, it happened that the Pope was anxious to have the walls of the great Cathedral of St. Peter at Rome decorated. So he sent messengers all over Italy to find out who were the best painters, that he might invite them to come and do the work.

The messengers went from town to town and asked every artist for a specimen of his painting. This was gladly given, for it was counted a great honour to help to make St. Peter's beautiful.

By and by the messengers came to Giotto and told him their errand. The Pope, they said, wished to see one of his drawings to judge if he was fit for the great work. Giotto, who was always most courteous, `took a sheet of paper and a pencil dipped in a red colour, then, resting his elbow on his side, with one turn of the hand, he drew a circle so perfect and exact that it was a marvel to behold.' `Here is your drawing,' he said to the messenger, with a smile, handing him the drawing.

`Am I to have nothing more than this?' asked the man, staring at the red circle in astonishment and disgust.

`That is enough and to spare,' answered Giotto. `Send it with the rest.'

The messengers thought this must all be a joke.

`How foolish we shall look if we take only a round O to show his Holiness,' they said.

But they could get nothing else from Giotto, so they were obliged to be content and to send it with the other drawings, taking care to explain just how it was done.

The Pope and his advisers looked carefully over all the drawings, and, when they came to that round O, they knew that only a master-hand could have made such a perfect circle without the help of a compass. Without a moment's hesitation they decided that Giotto was the man they wanted, and they at once invited him to come to Rome to decorate the cathedral walls. So when the story was known the people became prouder than ever of their great painter, and the round O of Giotto has become a proverb to this day in Tuscany.

`Round as the O of Giotto, d' ye see;

Which means as well done as a thing can be.'


(Lamentation, fresco by Giotto)


Giotto: The Florentine painter, architect, and sculptor Giotto (ca. 1267-1337) evolved a revolutionary new style and was the greatest and most influential Italian painter before the Renaissance.


1. How did the Pope¡¯s messenger feel when he received Giotto¡¯s red circle? 

2. What does the prover ¡°Giotto¡¯s round O¡± refers to?

3. What does the underlined word specimen(in Paragraph 2) mean?

4. How did the proverb "Giotto's round O" come into being?


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