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Masaccio

Masaccio (mäzätˈchō) [key], 1401–1428?, Italian painter. He is the foremost Italian painter of the Florentine Renaissance in the early 15th cent. Masaccio's original name was Tommaso Guidi. He was enrolled in the guild of St. Luke in 1424. Most of the creations of his brief lifetime have perished. Only four remain that are attributed to him without question: a polyptych (1426) painted for the Church of the Carmine, Pisa, many of its panels dispersed (now in London, Pisa, Naples, and Vienna) and some lost; the great Trinity fresco in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, which revolutionalized the understanding of perspective in painting; the Virgin with St. Anne (Uffizi), an early work in collaboration with the painter Masolino da Panicale; and his masterpiece—a major monument in the history of art—the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, begun by Masolino and completed many years later by Filippino Lippi. Leaving the chapel unfinished, Masaccio went to Rome, where he died. Masaccio's independent works in the chapel include Expulsion from Eden, Peter and John Healing the Sick, Peter and John Distributing Alms, Peter Baptizing, The Raising of the King's Son, and The Tribute Money. These frescoes had a great impact on Florentine painting and were for generations the training school and inspiration of painters, among them Michelangelo and Raphael. Masaccio imparted a new sense of grandeur and austerity to the human figure. He used light to give dimension to the contour and achieved a classic sense of proportion. At the same time he created a diversity of character within a unified group and emphasized the range of emotional expression in heroic individuals. Masaccio is remembered primarily for his innovative use of perspective. His originality and imagination place his work in the tradition of Giotto and Michelangelo.

See studies by L. Berti (1967) and B. Cole (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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