Masaccio                                                                                   Italian version


Masaccio:  Tommaso di ser Giovanni Cassai  (Valdarno 1401 - Roma 1428)

     
Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Cappella Brancacci "  affreschi. Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine. Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Cappella Brancacci "  affreschi. Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine. Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Il Tributo"  affresco; 247 X 591 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci.  Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Il Tributo"  (particolare) affresco; 247 X 591 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Il Tributo" (particolare del volto di Cristo)  affresco; 247 X 591 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci. Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Il Tributo" (Particolare centrale) affresco; 247 X 591 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci. Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Crocifissione di San Pietro e Decollazione di San Giovanni Battista"  polittico del Carmine di Pisa; tavola 21x61 cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlino.

 

Masaccio was born of parents Giovanni di Mone Cassai and Jacopa di Martinozzo in Castel San Giovanni di Altura, now San Giovanni Valdarno in the Tuscan province of Arezzo. His father was a notary and his mother the daughter of an innkeeper of Barberino di Mugello, a town a few miles south of Florence. His family name, Cassai, comes from the trade of his grandfather Simone and granduncle Lorenzo, who were carpenters - cabinet makers ("casse", hence "cassai"). His father died in 1406, when Tommaso was only five; in that year another brother was born, called Giovanni after the dead father. He also was to become a painter, with the nickname of "Scheggia". The mother remarried with an elderly apothecary, Tedesco, who guaranteed Masaccio and his family a comfortable childhood.

The family probably moved to Florence at the death of Tedesco, in August 1417. Little is known about this period until Tommaso joined one of the seven main craft's guilds in Florence, on January 7, 1422, signing as "Masus S. Johannis Simonis pictor populi S. Nicholae de Florentia". In the new city Tommaso received his nickname, meaning "Clumsy Thomas" for the little care he gave to wordly affairs and to personal appearance: otherwise he was considered a good-natured person.

The first works attributed to Masaccio are the Cascia Altarpiece, picturing the Madonna enthroned with angels and saints, and a Virgin and Child with St. Anne at the Uffizi: they date from that year and are already works of very high quality. The second work was a collaboration with an older and already renowned artist, Masolino da Panicale, and for many years it was assumed Masaccio was simply an apprentice to Masolino. However it has been pointed out that Masaccio gained entry to the Painters' Guild before Masolino, suggesting it more likely their collaboration was for convenience or simply moved by mutual esteem. It is also clear that Masaccio's talent was already patent, as well as he was probably already superior to Masolino himself. The conclusion is that it is still not known where Massaccio received his training in art.

 

Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "Adorazione dei Magi".  Polittico del Carmine di Pisa Tavola 21x61 cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlino. Artinvest2000. Masaccio   "La Trinitą".  667x317 cm. Firenze, Santa Maria Novella. Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Crocifissione"  (Particolare del volto di Cristo)1426. Polittico del Carmine di Pisa Tavola 83x63 cm

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  e Filippino Lippi  "La resurrezione del figlio di Teofilo e San Pietro in cattedra.  Affresco 232x597 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci. Artinvest2000. Masaccio  e Filippino Lippi  "La resurrezione del figlio di Teofilo e San Pietro in cattedra.  (Particolare)  Affresco 232x597 cm Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci.

 

Resurrection of the Son of TheophilusIn Florence Masaccio could study the works of Giotto and become friend with Alberti, Brunelleschi and Donatello. According to Vasari, at their prompting in 1423 Masaccio travelled to Rome with Masolino: from that point is freed of all Gothic and Byzantine influence as represented by the central panel of his altarpiece for the Carmelite Church in Pisa, the central panel of which (The Madonna and the Child) is now in the National Gallery, London. As well as a sculptural and human Madonna the work features a convincing perspectival depiction of her throne. The traces of influences from ancient Roman and Greek works that are present in some of Masaccio's works presumably originated from this trip: they should also have been present in a lost Sagra, today known through some drawings (including one by Michelangelo), a fresco commissioned for the consecration ceremony of the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence (April 19, 1422). It was destroyed when the church's cloister was rebuilt at the end of the 16th century.


The Tribute Money, fresco in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine, FlorenceIn 1424 the "duo preciso e noto" ("well and known duo") of Masaccio and Masolino was commissioned by the powerful and rich Felice Brancacci to execute a cycle of frescoes for the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. Theme of the frescoes of the little chapel was to be the "Histories of St. Peter". The genius of Masaccio shows clearly in the fresco "Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus" in the same chapel. He painted a pavement in perspective, framed by large buildings to obtain a depth of field, a three-dimensional space, in which the figures are placed proportionate to the perspective. In this he was a pioneer in applying the newly discovered rules of perspective.


When it was cleaned, Tommaso Masaccio's fresco of The Expulsion (1426–1427) lost the added fig leaves.Masaccio's scenes show his reference to Giotto especially. The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, depicting a distressed Adam and Eve, nude, without fig leaves had a huge influence on Michelangelo. Another major work is the Tribute Money in which Jesus and the Apostles are depicted as neo-classical archetypes.

On September 1425 Masolino left the work and went to Hungary. It is not known if this was because of money quarrels with Felice or even if there was an artistic divergence with Masaccio. It has been also supposed that Masolino was planning this trip from the very beginning, and needed the presence of a close collaborator who could keep up the work after his departure.
 

 

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Il Battesimo dei neofiti" affresco, 247x172 cm, Santa Maria del Carmine, Firenze, Cappella Brancacci.    Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Portrait of Leon Battista Alberti" 1423-25, wood 41x30 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.    Artinvest2000. Masaccio  Portrait of a Young Man. c.1425. Tempera on panel. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.    Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "San Paolo" (polittico del Carmine) tavola; 51 X 31 cm  Museo Nazionale, Pisa.    Sant'Andrea (polittico del Carmine di Pisa) tavola; 51x31 cm, Paul Getty Museum, Malibu.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Madonna col Bambino"  tavola 24 X 18 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze. Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "San Girolamo e san Giovanni Battista"  tavola, 144 x 55 cm, National Gallery, Londra. Artinvest2000: Masaccio "La cacciata" 1427 Affresco 214x90 cm. Firenze, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci. Artinvest2000: Masaccio "Trittico di San Giovenale" 1422 tavola 108x65 (parte centrale) 88x64 (laterali) Cascia di Reggello (FI) Pieve di San Pietro.

 

fresco in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine, FlorenceSome of the scenes completed by the duo were lost in a fire in 1771. We know about them through the biography of Masaccio written by Giorgio Vasari. The surviving parts were extensively blackened by smoke, and only a recent removing of two marble slabs covering two areas of the paintings has shown the original appearance of the work.

Masaccio left the work unfinished in 1426 in order to respond to other commissions, probably coming from the same patron. However, it has also been suggested that the declining finances of Felice Brancacci were insufficient to pay for any more work, so the painter therefore sought work elsewhere.

Masaccio returned in 1427 to work again in the Carmine, beginning the Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus, but apparently left it too unfinished, though it has also been suggested that the painting was severely damaged later in the century because it contained portraits of the Branacci family, at that time excoriated as enemies of the Medici. This painting was either restored or completed more than fifty years later by Filippino Lippi.

On February 19, 1426 Masaccio was commissioned by Giuliano di Colino degli Scarsi, for the sum of 80 florins, a major altarpiece for his chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Pisa. The work was dismantled and dispersed in the 18th century, and only eleven of the c. twenty original panels have been rediscovered in various places in the world. Masaccio probably worked at it entirely in Pisa, voyaging back and thro to Florence where he was still working to the Histories of St. Peter. In these years Donatello was also working in Pisa at a monument for Cardinal Rinaldo Brancacci, to be sent to Naples. It has been suggested that Masaccio first attempts with plasticity and perspective were based on Donatello's sculpture, before he could study Brunelleschi's more scientific approach to perspective.


Through the help of Brunelleschi, in 1427 Masaccio won a prestigious commission to produce a Holy Trinity for the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. The fresco, considered by many his masterwork, marks the first use of systematic linear perspective, possibly devised by Masaccio with the assistance of Brunelleschi himself.

Masaccio produced two other works, a Nativity and an Annunciation, now lost, before leaving for Rome where his companion Masolino was frescoing the Basilica di San Clemente. It has been never confirmed that Masaccio collaborated to that work, even though it could be possible he contributed to Masolino's polyptych of the altar of St. Mary Major with his panel portraying St. Jerome and St. John the Baptist, now in the National Gallery of London. Masaccio died at the end of 1428. According to a legend, he was poisoned by a rival painter who had guessed Masaccio's art was unbeatable for him.

Only four frescoes undoubtedly from Masaccio's hand still exist today, although many other works have been credited either in whole or in part to his name. Some others are believed to have been destroyed.

 

 

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Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Crocifissione"  1426. Polittico del Carmine di Pisa Tavola 83x63 cm

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "San Pietro che risana con l'ombra gli infermi"  Saint Peter Healing with His shadow  1425-26.  Affresco 232x162.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "La distribuzione dei beni e la morte di Anania"  Saint Peter Distributing Alms and the Death of Ananias 1425-26.  Affresco 232x157 cm.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Sant' Anna Metterza. Tavola 175x103 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Madonna con bambino in trono e quattro angioli" Polittico del Carmine di Pisa.

Artinvest2000. Masaccio  "Sant' Anna Metterza. (Particolare del volto della Madonna) Tavola 175x103 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze.