Born in a village near Florence to a poor shepherd's family, Giotto came to the attention of famous painter Giovanni Cimabue, who made him his apprentice. Legend has it that Cimabue discovered chalk drawings of sheep the 11-year-old Giotto had made on a rock and was impressed by their realism.
Giotto became known as the premiere painter of the 1300s. His great innovation was his naturalistic style, which used rounded figures and perspective rather than the flat Byzantine style previously in use. His frescoes in Padua's Arena Chapel, depicting the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ, are considered his masterpiece.