BRANCACCI CHAPEL, Frescoes

Audio File length: 2.49
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

You should know that Masolino and Masaccio are known for having often painted scenes which were rather uncommon throughout art history (such as The Tribute Money, St. Peter Healing the Sick, or the Raising of the Son of Theophilus), thereby avoiding comparisons with previous models. When you first gaze upon the frescoes in Brancacci Chapel, it won't be very easy for you to distinguish which were painted by Masaccio and which were painted by Masolino. Look at the two couples of Adam and Eve, symmetrically painted on the sides of the chapel's entrance. To the right, with the backdrop of Earthly Paradise, Masolino's two nudes are rounded, soft, and enveloping. Opposite them, Masaccio expresses the sense of human and divine tragedy in the exile of Adam and Eve after the Original sin. The large and realistic despairing nudes accentuate the contrast between the green garden of Masolino and Masaccio's desert just outside Eden's door.

But now it's time for you to delve into The Tribute Money, which is the most famous and important fresco here, and the true key of the pictorial cycle. Christ shows St. Peter how to get the coin to pay the taxes: the man who commissioned the painting, Felice Brancacci, had become wealthy as a tax collector, and his intention was to illustrate the passage of the Gospel where Christ himself shows that he must pay what's due ("Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's").

In a single landscape that has been reduced to the bare essentials and is therefore of immediate effect, three different and subsequent moments are depicted: in the center, Christ tells Peter that the coin lies in the bowels of a fish; at the sides, Peter goes fishing, and then goes to the tax office to pay the tribute to the tax collector. As you can see, Masaccio concentrates all the painting's tension in the group of figures and their eloquent gestures and solemn expressions, enhancing their monumentality.

 

FUN FACT: the modifications made to the chapel and the entire church, particularly after the damage caused by a severe fire in the second half of the 1700s, have long compromised visiting these frescoes. The restorations carried out about thirty years ago have recovered their lively, original colors. The nakedness of Adam and Eve had been painted over with modest, unrealistic-looking twigs, which were also removed.

And with this we have finished our tour of Brancacci Chapel in Florence. MyWoWo thanks you for staying with us, and will see you at the next Wonder of the World!

 

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