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Masaccio, Italian Renaissance Painter

Saint Jerome & Saint John the Baptist by Masaccio

Saint Jerome &
Saint John the Baptist

Masaccio, 1428
National Gallery, London

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One of the most significant Italian Renaissance painters is the brilliant artist Masaccio, originally Tommaso Cassai. Masaccio was born near Florence on December 21, 1401. Masaccio died a young man in Rome in 1428, only 27 years old. When Masaccio was 21, he joined the Florentine painter's guild. Important to Masaccio's development was the influence of Italian painter, Giotto di Bondone. Masaccio masterfully used architect Brunelleschi's innovative device of perspective in his pictorial compositions, a device not seen in art since antiquity. Masaccio was further influenced by the sculptor Donatello and Greco-Roman art in the illusionistic three-dimensional modeling of his forms. Masaccio rejected the heavily ornamented style of Byzantine and Gothic art, opting instead for simplicity.

Vasari tells us that all Florentine painters studied the frescoes of Masaccio to "learn the precepts and rules for painting well." Masaccio is credited for introducing humanism in art. The death of such a talented, young painter as Masaccio was a great loss to the art world, something not fully realized until later. It is rumored that Masaccio's early death was the result of poisoning by a rival artist who could not compete successfully with the great artist.

Strongly influenced by Masaccio later was Italian Renaissance giant, Michelangelo.

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

  • Masaccio's Tribute Money
    Masaccio's Tribute Money is revolutionary in his use of perspective, not seen since antiquity, and the forms appearing to being rendered with a single light source.
  • Holy Trinity by Masaccio
    For the first time since antiquity, we see the full use of Brunelleschi's innovative perspective technique in the fresco of the Holy Trinity by Masaccio.
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