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Art restorers working on frescoes in a forgotten chapel in Assisi believe they have stumbled across proof that stunning images found under layers of grime are the work of medieval artist Giotto.
The discovery of the artist’s initials on the frescoes follows two years of restoration work in the Chapel of St Nicholas in the lower basilica of Saint Francis. The work was prompted by a 1997 earthquake that damaged the basilica.
Experts have argued that the frescoes in the chapel, which has been closed to the public and neglected for years, were at best the work of Giotto’s followers in the 14th century.
But restorers claim the letters GB – standing for Giotto di Bondone, his full name – prove the cleaned-up images were his.
Art restorers have discovered the figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, church officials said on Saturday.
The devil was hidden in the details of clouds at the top of fresco number 20 in the cycle of the scenes in the life and death of St Francis painted by Giotto in the 13th century.
The discovery was made by Italian art historian Chiara Frugone. It shows a profile of a figure with a hooked nose, a sly smile, and dark horns hidden among the clouds in the panel of the scene depicting the death of St Francis.
The figure is difficult to see from the floor of the basilica but emerges clearly in close-up photography.
Sergio Fusetti, the chief restorer of the basilica, said Giotto probably never wanted the image of the devil to be a main part of the fresco and may have painted it in among the clouds “to have a bit of fun.”