We read A Boy Named Giotto by Paolo Guarnieri (illustrated by Bimba Landmann; FSG, 1999) at the National Gallery of Art yesterday, as part of the NGA's summer series Stories in Art (this year's theme is Explore Italy). Inspired a legend about the artist's childhood, the story tells how the boy Giotto, with materials borrowed from the artist Cimabue, paints a sheep so convincingly that even her missing lamb is fooled and returns to Giotto's father's flock. When Cimabue sees Giotto's painting of the sheep, he asks Giotto's father to let his son become Cimabue's apprentice, which eventually he does.
Landmann's elegant illustrations are likewise inspired by the work of Giotto, which is a daunting task; but not imitative, which never works anyway. They evoke the early Renaissance, with its Byzantine grace and modern spirit. I love the palette Landmann uses here as well, all rusts and ochres and gold.
Unfortunately, A Boy Named Giotto is out of print (my library doesn't even hold it anymore) so we haven't been able to reread it or look closely at the illustrations. If you can find this one, it's worth it. In gold (or at least gold leaf).