Brancacci Chapel


Info

Opening hours: Monday and Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sundays and public holidays 1pm-5pm.

Closing days: Tuesdays, January 1, January 7, Easter Day, May 1, July 16, August 15, Christmas Day.

Admission: € 6.00.
Concessions available.


Description

One of the most famous fresco cycles of the Renaissance is the young Masaccio's work on the Brancacci Chapel. A visit to the chapel is a must to experience first hand why and how this young man is considered the first great painter of the Renaissance, and how this work helped shape the Renaissance.

Despite his tragic and mysterious death at the age of just twenty-six, Masaccio (1401-1428) had an enormous influence on all the Florentine artists to come after him. He is considered one of the first painters to experiment with and achieve vanishing point or single point perspective in his paintings (try to imagine a desert road, where the road converges into one point on the horizon), creating highly realistic scenes and compositions with figures, a great deal of three-dimensionality and realism. It was truly revolutionary for its time and still continues to inspire people to this day.

The fresco cycle was commissioned in 1424 by Felice Brancacci, a Florentine silk merchant and diplomat (he was ambassador to Cairo until 1423) who was married to Lena Strozzi, daughter of the powerful Medici enemy, Palla Stozzi. The chapel was to represent the life of Saint Peter, the Brancacci family's patron saint. Masaccio and his good friend Masolino (1383-1447) were commissioned together, but soon after Masolino left to Hungary, leaving the young Masaccio on his own. Masaccio was called to Rome before finishing the chapel, and mysteriously died while there. The unfinished portions were painted almost fifty years later between 1481-1485 by Filippino Lippi (1457-1504), the son of Filippo Lippi, who who had grown up in the very church of Santa Maria del Carmine.

Despite surviving the devastating fire that in 1771 destroyed most of the church, the chapel has undergone numerous modernising interventions, including the controversial covering up of the nudity of Adam and Eve with carefully placed foliage, ordered in 1642 by the very religious Cosimo III de’ Medici, but removed in the 1980s.

The theme of the cycle is that of the salvation of man, from original sin to the intervention of Saint Peter, founder of the Church of Rome.

The artists arranged the scenes on two registers, alternately painting episodes while adopting a common chromatic scale and the same single vanishing point perspective, conceived for a hypothetical viewer standing in the middle of the chapel. It was the first time that these ideas were adopted in a fresco cycle executed by more than one artist, which even Filippino Lippi followed when completing the chapel. This resulted in an exceptionally coherent visual and spatial unity, which justifies the fame of the Brancacci Chapel as one of the most important works in Italian art history.

The Tribute Money, the Bible story of Peter and the tax collector, is an unusual theme for its time. It could have reflected the contemporary concerns about Florence's new tax system, the catasto, or been a reference to the family as the Pope's supporters (Saint Peter was the first pope) during a politically delicate time. The use of light to its full effect in this scene, was particularly original for its time – rather than a flat, even light, Masaccio's light comes from one source, casting shadows and creating a true chiaroscuro effect, enhancing the three-dimensionality of the figures.


Comments

5

This was our favorite church in Florence. You only get fifteen minutes to see the frescoes because they limit the number of people but it's totally worth it.

4

This place should be on everyone's top list for Florence. This beautiful chapel hosts the exquisite Masaccio fresco which is well worth seeing. Tucked out of the way, in the area called Piazza del Carmine, south of the river, so less tourists!

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