Masaccio 1400 - 1428

Masaccio (1401-1427?) was the first great painter of the Italian Renaissance, whose innovations in the use of scientific perspective inaugurated the modern era in painting.

The fresco series for the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence (about 1427) illustrates another of his great innovations, the use of light to define the human body and its draperies. In these frescoes, rather than bathing his scenes in flat uniform light, he painted them as if they were illuminated from a single source of light (the actual chapel window), thus creating a play of light and shadow (chiaroscuro) that gave them a natural, realistic quality unknown in the art of his day. Of these six fresco scenes, Tribute Money and the Expulsion from Paradise are considered his masterpieces.

Altar panel: Cascia di Regello, San Pietro, San Giovenale Triptych, 1422

The San Giovenale Triptych, Masaccio's earliest work (1422) I reproduce, because of it's importance in Tuscan Renaissance painting. It is dated along the bottom with the inscription in modern humanist letters, the first in Europe not in Gothic characters: ANNO DOMINI MCCCCXXII A DI VENTITRE D'AP(RILE). The represented saints are Sts. Bartholomew and Biaggio to the left, Sts Giovenale and Anthony Abbot to the right. Notice the local Christ baby sucking his two fingers! Unheard of until then. (The original is now in the Uffizi in Florence.)

Masaccio, S.Maria del Carmine Florence 1427

Masaccio's Frescoes in the Cappella Brancacci in S. Maria del Carmine in Florence 1427 are the culmination of Florentine fresco painting. Their recent restoration has done a miracle.

The renovated Capella Brancacci

Left wall of the chapel

Right Wall of the Chapel

Masaccio's Contributions

The remaining frescos are by other painters and wil be discussed under their names

Expulsion from Paradise

Distribution of Tribute Money

Sr. Peter raising Theophilus

St. Peter distributing alms

St Peter healing with his Shadow

Masaccio's Trinitá in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1425-1427

Masaccio's Trinitá in SM Novella, Florence (1425-1427) is Masaccio's most enigmatic work. Long lost, then moved in two parts, it was reassembled only in 1952. The skeleton on the bottom is part of the painting! In the old Byzantine canon the bones under the Cross represent Adam buried in Golgatha. - Masaccio has elevated this symbolism with an Italian subscript to a new Humanism: "I was what you are, you'll be what I am." Art-historically the importance of this fresco lies in its spatial construction. He employs two vanishing points. The perspective illusion has come full circle, it is complete.