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Holy Trinity
The Holy Trinity with the Virgin and St. John
Masaccio was born Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi on December 21, 1401. His father died when he was only five years old and his mother was remarried to an elderly apothecary who died in 1417, when Masaccio was sixteen. According to the Renaissance artist and biographer Giorgi Vasari, Tommaso received his nickname, Masaccio, (which means big, clumsy Thomas), because of his absent mindedness about worldly affairs, carelessness about his personal appearance, and other seemingly needless behavior. Masaccio studied art in Florence and gained recognition as a master painter by the time he was twenty-one.

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Masaccio applied the mathematical laws discovered by Brunelleschi in his paintings and created an illusion of space and distance. He created this illusion by making a system of lines appear to head toward a certain focal point. Masaccio was considered a genius and is best known for the fresco of The Holy Trinity with the Virgin and St. John, the first successful depiction in painting of the new concept of Renaissance space. He also revived a second type of perspective, atmosphere or aerial, based on the Roman tradition. Through the use of colors, he created an illusion of depth by subtly diminishing the tones as distance between the eye and object increased. When atmospheric perspective was joined with linear perspective later that century, a greater illusion of reality was achieved.

Like his two Florentine contemporaries, Brunelleschi and Donatello, Masaccio introduced humanism into his art by putting man and the world at the center of his works, rather than at the periphery. This is opposite of the theocentric universe of medieval art. His subjects also appear to be drawn from the life he saw around him, rather than from the traditional models he inherited.

Masaccio's significance for modern painting was never doubted. In fact, Alberti and Da Vinci studied his Carime frescoes in order "to learn the precept and rules for painting well." His work has been called pure, unadorned, and classic, on one hand, and expressive, plastic, and highly chromatic, on the other.

Masaccio died in Rome in 1428. An unconfirmed report speaks of death by poisoning, while others say that his career was probably cut short by the plague.


    Matthews. The Western Humanities.Second Edition.Mayfield Publishing Co. 1950

    World Book Encyclopedia. World Book Inc.1993. Volume 13.


Edited by: Tzava Suleiman, Von Stueben High School, Chicago, IL
Researched by: Gemma Marcelo, Von Stueben High School, Chicago, IL
Written by: Danica Chan, Von Stueben High School, Chicago, IL
17 April 1998


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