See M. Chiellini, Cimabue (1988).
Owing to little surviving documentation, not much is known about Cimabue's life. He was born in Florence and died in Pisa. His career was described in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (called, in Italian, Le Vite), widely regarded as the first art history book, though it was completed over 200 years after Cimabue's death. Although it is one of the few early records we have of him, its accuracy is uncertain. According to Hugh Honour and John Fleming: "His name is, in fact, little more than a convenient label for a closely related group of panel and wall paintings".
Among Cimabue's few surviving works are the Madonna of Santa Trinita, once in the church of Santa Trinita, and now housed, with Duccio's Rucellai Madonna and Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna, in the Uffizi Gallery.
In the Lower Church of Saint Francis in Assisi is an extremely important fresco, depicting The Madonna and Christ Child enthroned with angels and Saint Francis. It is claimed to be a work of Cimabue's old age.
Two additional, very fine paintings are attributed to Cimabue. The Flagellation of Christ was purchased by New York's Frick Collection in 1950 and was long considered to be of uncertain authorship, possibly Duccio's. But in 2000, the National Gallery in London acquired The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Two Angels with many similarities (size, materials, red borders, incised margins, etc.) to Flagellation. The two pictures are now thought to be parts of a single work, a diptych or triptych altarpiece, and their attribution to Cimabue is fairly secure. The pair are believed to date from 1280. The Virgin and Child was on loan to the Frick for a few months in late 2006, so the two works could be viewed side-by-side. The Flagellation painting is one of only two Cimabues permanently in the United States.
A tiny devotional painting of a "Madonna and Child with SS. Peter and John the Baptist" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC was painted by Cimabue or one of his students around 1290. It is significant because it shows a cloth of honor that may well be the first patchwork quilt in Western art.
O vanity of human powers,
how briefly lasts the crowning green of glory,
unless an age of darkness follows!
In painting Cimabue thought he held the field
but now it's Giotto has the cry,
so that the other's fame is dimmed.