Who was Masaccio?
Italian painter Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi, who came to be nicknamed Masaccio, was one of the most significant painter of the early 15th century and the most important painter in the Quattocentro era of the Renaissance. Masaccio’s family wasn’t even remotely interested in the arts and that is quite staggering considering the fact those most great painters who emerged during the Italian Renaissance had some sort of connection with the world of arts. There is no record of Masaccio’s early life and hence it cannot be ascertained for sure whether he got formal training in the arts; however it must be said that he started off as an artist of note at the age of 21 and continued to produce excellent work for the rest of his career. Masaccio was the first painter to have used such path breaking painting technique like the ‘vanishing point’ and ‘linear perspective’, in addition to the fact that he was also adept at bringing about a three dimensional effect in some of his paintings. Masaccio’s most famous works include ‘Holy Trinity’, ‘San Giovenale Triptych’ and ‘The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’ among others. Generations of painters including such stalwarts like Michelangelo were inspired by his work.
Childhood & Early Life
Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone, who later came to be known as Masaccio, was born on 21 December 1401, in San Giovanni Valdarno (present day Arezzo), to Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai and his wife Monna Jacopa. Masaccio’s father was employed as a notary, although the family was traditionally engaged in carpentry.
Masaccio lost his father at the age of five in the year 1406 and later in the very same year his younger brother was born.
During the Renaissance, it was a tradition for budding painters to seek training under the guidance of an established artist, however, there is no record of Masaccio ever having apprenticed under a master.
Very little is known about Masaccio’s early life up until the year 1422 when he became a member of the ‘Arte de Medici e Spezinali’, a painters’ guild located in Florence. He joined the guild as an independent master and most art historians assume that he must have trained as a painter throughout his early life; although there is no verifiable evidence in support of that assumption.
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Masaccio’s first painting was the ‘San Giovenale Triptych’ that was completed in 1422. The painting was meant for the Church of San Giovenale and shows Madonna in the company of angels. The particular painting also shows the sort of influence the Florentine school of painting had on Masaccio as a young artist.
In 1424, he completed ‘Virgin and Child with Saint Anne’ which displayed distinct three dimensional features. This particular work was done with inputs from the artist Masolino da Panicale, with whom Masaccio collaborated in several other works over the rest of his career.
In 1425, Masaccio created one of his most famous works in the form of ‘The Expulsion From the Garden of Eden’ that depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and the most important aspect of the painting are the expressions on the faces of the figures. The painting had a deep influence on Michelangelo. Masaccio completed another famous painting titled ‘The Tribute Money’ in the same year.
Masaccio got the commission to paint the altarpiece at Church of Santa Maria del Carmine located in Pisa in the year 1426 and it was one of the most important commissions of his career. There were many different panels in the altarpiece and although many of the panels were lost, the central one featuring ‘Madonna and the Child’ is regarded by critics as the most important one from the artistic perspective.
In 1427, Masaccio started work on his most famous work; the ‘Holy Trinity’ at the Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence. The ‘Trinity’ comprises of the Holy Spirit and the father and son in the fresco. The dove in the work is what represents the Holy Spirit and it is regarded as his masterpiece in a career in which he produced many.
After producing ‘The Nativity’, Masaccio left for Rome and some historians believe that he helped his long time artistic partner Masolino with his work.
In a relatively short career as a painter Masaccio created a body of work that is regarded among the finest by most art enthusiasts and experts alike. Among those his most important work has to be the masterpiece ‘Holy Trinity’, a fresco that he started working on in 1427. Although many of the panels of the fresco were lost; the remaining ones showed the profoundness of thought that went into the fresco.
Personal Life & Legacy
There is no record that suggests that Masaccio ever married or even had a relationship in his lifetime.
Masaccio died young at the age of 26 at some point in 1428 but the exact date of his death and the reason are unknown.