Masaccio was the first painter in the Renaissance to incorporate Brunelleschi's discovery in his art. He did this in his fresco called the Holy Trinity, in Santa Maria Novella, in Florence.
Masaccio's Holy Trinity, 1425-28. Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Have a close look at the painting and at this perspective diagram. You see the orthogonals in the lines that form the coffers in the ceiling of the barrel vault (look for diagonal lines that appear to recede into the distance). Because Masaccio painted from a low viewpoint, as though we were looking up at Christ, we see the orthogonals in the ceiling, and if we traced all of the orthogonals the vanishing point would be below the base of the cross.
Perspective diagram of Masaccio's Holy Trinity
My favorite part of this fresco is God's feet. Actually, you can only really see one of them. Think about this for a moment. God is standing in this painting. Doesn't that strike you as odd just a little bit? This may not strike you all that much when you first think about it because our idea of God, our picture of God in our minds eye, as an old man with a beard, is very much based on Renaissance images of God. So, here Masaccio imagines God as a man. Not a force or a power, or something abstract, but as a man. A man who stands -- his feet are foreshortened, and he weighs something and is capable of walking! In medieval art, God was often represented by a hand, just a hand, as though God was an abstract force or power in our lives, but here he seems so much like a flesh and blood man. This is a good indication of Humanism in the Renaissance.
Masaccio's contemporaries were struck by the palpable realism of this fresco, as was Vasari who lived over one hundred years later. Vasari wrote that "the most beautiful thing, apart from the figures, is the barrel-vaulted ceiling drawn in perspective and divided into square compartments containing rosettes foreshortened and made to recede so skilfully that the surface looks as if it is indented."
One of the other amazing things about this painting is the use of classical architecture (from ancient Greece and Rome). Masaccio borrowed much of what we see from ancient Romanarchitecture, and may have been helped by Brunelleschi. Study thediagram below and make sure you can identify the differentarchitectural elements. If you want to read more about these terms lookin the glossary in the back of your book.
Elements of ancient architecture in Masaccio's Holy Trinity
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