Masaccio: The Holy Trinity


Creator:  Masaccio
Title:        The Holy Trinity
Date:        c. 1427
Medium:  Fresco
Repository:  Santa Maria Novella, Florence

One of the first painters to use the newly established technique of vanishing point perspective in his paintings is Masaccio, and this fresco is a perfect example of its use.  This image represents the Holy Trinity and in it we see the figure of God the father, his son Jesus on the cross, and a dove uniting the two.  Mary is to the left of the crucified Jesus, and St John is to the right.  The skeleton on a sarcophagus lies beneath an inscription warning: “I was once what you are, and am what one day you will be”. (Turner, 102)

“The fresco is one of the earliest works to use accurately the system of linear perspective developed by Brunelleschi; indeed it may be that the architect himself intervened in the design of the shadowy niche and the pink architectural elements”. (Macadam, 182).

Masaccio and Brunelleschi were contemporaries.  Vasari notes that when Brunelleschi heard of the death of Masaccio he remarked “we have suffered a great loss with Masaccio’s death”.  Vasari goes on to say that Brunelleschi “had worked very hard for a long time to teach Masaccio many of the techniques of perspective and architecture”. (Vasari, 109)

Masaccio also created magnificent frescos for the Brancacci Chapel, notably The Tribute Money which is justly admired for the beauty and skill in composition and perspective. Indeed, as Macadam states “Masaccio’s frescos were at once recognized as a masterpiece and profoundly influenced the Florentine Renaissance: all the major artists of the 15th century came here to study them”. (Macadam, 275)

Works Cited:

Macadam, A. Blue Guide Florence. Somerset Books. 2011
Turner, A. R. Renaissance Florence: The Invention of a New Art. Laurence King Publishing Ltd. 1997
Vasari, G. The Lives of the Artists. Oxford University Press, translated by J.C. Bondanella and P. Bondanella. 2008

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