Arena Chapel, Padua: a series of wood engravings from the frescoes of Giotto, illustrating the lives of the Virgin and our Saviour.

RA Collection: Book

Record number



[London:]: Arundel Society,, 1860.

Physical Description

[2] f., 38 pl.; 569 mm.

Responsibility Note

All plates are signed as painted by Giotto, drawn by W.O. Williams and made by Dalziel fratres.

Each carries the publisher's imprint of the Arundel Society (with date).


R. Cooper, 'The popularisation of Renaissance art in Victorian England', in Art history, I (1978), p.263-92; T. Harrod, A study of the Arundel Society 1848-1897 [dissertation, Univy. Oxford] (1978); C. H. Lloyd, Art and its images [exhibition catalogue] (1975), p.124-7; W. Noel Johnson, A handbook to the collection of chromolithographs from copies of important works of ancient masters published by the Arundel Society (1907); V. Marchese, 'La Società Arundel in Londra e le belle arti in Italia', in Ultimi scritti (1889), p.213; M. Digby Wyatt, An address in the Crystal palace on November 3rd 1855 at the opening of an exhibition of works of art belonging to the Arundel Society (1855).

Summary Note

These prints were accompanied by a text by John Ruskin, Giotto And His Works In Padua: Being An Explanatory Notice of the Series of Woodcuts Executed for the Arundel Society After the Frescoes in the Arena Chapel ([London:] Printed for the Arundel Society, 1854).

Plates 1-14 carry the date 1853; 15-23, 1854; 14-26, 1855; 27-28, 1856.

They show paintings executed by Giotto in the Cappella degli Scrovegni at Padua about 1305; which depict the lives of the Virgin and of Christ.

W. O. Williams's watercolours after the frescoes were exhibited at the Crystal Palace, London, in 1855-6, where they were praised by Rossetti. On the need for faithfulness in copying Ruskin comments, 'Copyists try to modify or to hide the weaknesses of the old art ... by which procedure they very often wholly lose its spirit, and only half redeem its defects'. He also addresses the perennial question of whether one method of reproduction may be more appropriate than another in attempting to convey the style of the original: Giotto, he suggests, 'never finished highly ... in his fresco work the handling is much broader than that of contemporary painters ... For this reason the character of his painting is best expressed by bold wood-engravings'.

Copy Note

Copy 1: Imperfect; wanting the first two leaves, and pl. 29-38. On the upper cover is pasted a white paper label inscribed in ink in an unknown hand, 'Giotto's Chapel at Padua Press 1 Shelf 1'. Copy 2: Imperfect; wanting pl.1-26.

Binding Note

Copy 1: 19th-century quarter morocco, blue cloth-covered boards; spine lettered 'Giotto's Chapel'. Copy 2: Unbound (as issued).

Name as Subject


Bible, N.T., Gospels
Christian art and symbolism - Saints
Paintings, Italian - Frescoes - Narrative art - Church decoration and ornament - Churches - Chapels - Italy - Padua - Cappella degli Scrovegni nell'Arena - History - 14th century
Pictorial works - Wood-engravings - Great Britain - 19th century


Giotto, source artist
William Oliver Williams, draughtsman
Arundel Society, publisher
Dalziel Brothers (London), engraver