According to some historians, Giotto accompanied Cimabue to Assisi. It seems it was Cimabue who was originally commissioned the work of the decorative frescoes of the Basilica we know as “The Legend of St. Francis” or “St. Francis’ cycle,” a graphic journey through the saint’s life.
The attribution of the authorship of this Legend has been, without exaggeration, one of the most disputed in the history of Western art. The documents that would set the discussion, which were jealously guarded in the archives of the convent, were destroyed by the Napoleonic troops, who for years used the church as a stable, thus making the work of art historians all the more difficult in this case.
Giotto’s fame, which practically eclipsed that of all his contemporaries, has been the cause of the spontaneous attribution of most of the works that we know were not painted by Cimabue, specially those of the Legend of St. Francis.
To this, one must also add the fact that an early biographical source, the texts of Riccobaldo Ferrarese, indicate that Giotto was practically the official painter of the Franciscan Order in Assisi, Rimini and Padua, among other localities.
Without documents certifying the authorship of the frescoes of the Legend, art historians have decided to compare this series with what is known as Giotto’s top work: his frescoes in the so-called “Arena Chapel,” also known as the Scrovegni Chapel, in which a similar cycle is found.
The stylistic differences between the frescoes found in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua and those one finds in Assisi, specialists affirm, cannot be simply attributed to the evolution of the artist, and it has practically been ruled out that Giotto is the author of the Legend of St. Francis, in Assisi.