Florence art guide



San Giovanni Valdarno 1401-Rome 1428

Tommaso di ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai (San Giovanni Valdarno 1401- Rome 1428). He was one of the most important painters of the 15th century and the founder of Renaissance painting. He took up the inheritance of Giotto, developing it according to the new techniques and methods of perspective, thus giving the human figure a completely new, freer and more concrete position in the world.
He was extremely young when he came to Florence and was to form part of the circle around Masolino da Panicale, also from his home town and twenty years his senior, though apparently their relationship was not that of teacher and pupil. Rather, it seems that the presence of the already brilliant Masaccio, with the introduction of the new rules of perspective and naturalism, was to give new impulse to Masolino's work, which had hitherto tended to keep to late Gothic models.
He was admitted, like most of the other artists, to the Guild of Doctors and Herbalists in 1422: his first work, carried out with Masolino, was the Madonna and Child and St. Anne (Sant'Anna Metterza, 1424-25), previously in the church of Sant'Ambrogio and now in the Uffizi. He was in Rome with Masolino for the Jubilee in 1425: together they painted the Polyptych of the Snow in Santa Maria Maggiore.

The Trinity
The Trinity in
St. Maria Novella

However his first important work was the Trinity in Santa Maria Novella, where he made the maximum use of the rules of perspective, while he worked on his own to carry out the beautiful Polyptych in the church of the Carmine at Pisa (1426), commissioned by the notary Giuliano degli Scarsi. Unfortunately much of his work is scattered about the world: the Madonna and Child in London (National Gallery), the Crucifixion in Naples (Capodimonte) and the Adoration of the Magi in Berlin (Staat Museum). Other works are to be found in Pisa and Vienna.

Brancacci ChapelBrancacci Chapel
Frescoes in St. Maria del Carmine
Brancacci Chapel

He went back to working with Masolino again between 1425 and 1427 in what was to be his most important work: the series of frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine. They are considered to be the first real paintings of the Renaissance. Masaccio was to condense the ideas behind the new naturalistic revolution in his stories of St. Peter and the Original Sin: the space was divided up according to the rules of scientific perspective, light came from a precise direction and the shadows gave depth and great intensity to the figures; this was a holy story which found itself in the reality of the moment and was told with great simplicity.
This cycle of frescoes found immediate fame and is extremely important in the history of painting: Alberti and Leonardo wrote about it, Michelangelo studied it, it was mentioned by historians and writers and, lastly, it was saved from destruction in the 17th century by the artists of Florence, who rebelled against the plans of the owners of the Chapel to reconstruct it in Baroque style.

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