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Critics slam Giotto burial as a grave mistake

Published Jan 8, 2001


Rome - What may - or may not - be the bones of the father of European painting were laid to rest on Monday in a place of honour in Florence's Duomo at a solemn memorial Mass. But the tomb is nameless.

The identity of the remains are in hot dispute. Two Italian researchers insist they are those of the 14th century artist Giotto. An American art historian says they probably belonged to a "fat butcher."

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Monday's ceremony appeared to be a bit of a compromise between the warring views.

The remains were buried near the grave of the Duomo's famed designer, Filippo Brunelleschi, but in a crypt closed to the public and without a marker, the Ansa news agency reported from Florence.

Lobbying hard for full recognition for the remains were Italian author Stefano Sieni and Francesco Mallegni, an anthropology and paleontology professor at the universities of Pisa and Palermo.

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They say a face they reconstructed based on the skeleton resembles what may be a Giotto self-portrait in a fresco at Padua's Scrovegni Chapel.

The bones' chief nay-sayer is Franklin Toker, a professor of art history at the University of Pittsburgh who took part in the excavations in the 1970s that unearthed the remains in an unmarked grave.

He doesn't believe they are Giotto's and had pleaded with Florence's Archbishop Silvano Piovanelli not to "render honour to the bones of some fat butcher."

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"Wishful thinking has triumphed," Toker said in a telephone interview Monday after he learnt of the ceremony. "I think Florence is richer by one fake tourist attraction and substantially poorer by not adhering to scientific archaeology standards."

Toker has raised a number of questions about the bones, including the site where they were found, a grave at what was the Church of Santa Reparata, which was later replaced by the Duomo. Toker says there are documents from the 16th century saying Giotto was buried in another spot.

Monday was January 8, which is celebrated as the anniversary of Giotto's death. Little is known about Giotto's life, but scholars think he died at age 70 in Florence in 1337. That would make Monday the 664th anniversary of his death.

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Piovanelli, the archbishop, presided over Monday's Mass. - Sapa-AP

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