Surely one of the coollest auditions in history, Giotto‘s masterful response to the Pope’s request for evidence of his genius has long been a favourite story of mine. Here it is in Italian, followed by my translation into quasi-Gibbonesque English.
“Ma già l’Italia era piena del nome suo; quindi Bonifacio VIII volevalo a Roma e mandava un gentiluomo a riconoscere se il merito adeguasse l’ama. Giotto, nobilmente orgoglioso e certo, sdegnato di tale dubbio, tirò con mano sotto gli occhi dell’ inviato un circolo sì perfetto, che ne nacque il proverbio: Tondo come il O di Giotto: e volle fosse portato al pontefice, ricusando di fare qualunque altro disegno. Bonifacio, che forse riconobbe il suo errore, si affretto a chiamarlo.”
Source: Filippo De Boni : Biografia degli artisti (1840)
“But Italy was already filled with his [Giotto’s] name. So it was that Boniface VIII wanted him in Rome and sent a gentleman to judge whether the fame was deserved. Nobly proud and certain of himself, and disdaining any doubt, Giotto drew freehand, in the sight of the emissary, a circle so perfect that it gave birth to the proverb ‘as round as Giotto’s circle.’ Full ready to be taken thus to the pontiff, he excused himself from making any other drawing. Boniface, perhaps acknowledging his own mistake, hastened to receive him.”