Masolino da Panicale
born 1383, Panicale, near Perugia, Romagna
died , probably 1440–47, Florence
original name Tommaso Di Cristoforo Fini painter who achieved a
compromise between the International Gothic manner and the advanced
early Renaissance style of his own day and who owes his prominence in
the history of Florentine art not to his innovations but to his lyrical
style and his unfailing artistry.
Masolino came from the same district of Tuscany as his younger
contemporary Masaccio (q.v.), with whom his career was closely linked.
Trained in a Florentine studio, possibly that of Gherardo Starnina, he
appears before 1407 to have been a member of the workshop of Lorenzo
Ghiberti. His earliest works include the “Madonna of Humility” (Alte
Pinakothek, Munich), probably painted c. 1424, and a “Virgin and Child”
(Kunsthalle, Bremen), dated 1423. In 1424 he received payment for
frescoes in S. Stefano at Empoli (in large part destroyed).
The first known work to display the fundamental antithesis between the
decorative late Gothic style of Masolino and themore progressive early
Renaissance style of Masaccio is a “Virgin and Child with St. Anne” (c.
1420; Uffizi, Florence). It is thought that this work may be the result
of a collaboration of the two artists.
The influence on Masolino of the stronger and more decisive personality
of Masaccio reached its climax in the frescoes of scenes from the life
of St. Peter in the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of the Carmine in
Florence. There have been many opinions about the respective shares of
the two artistsin this important cycle. It is likely that the frescoes
were commissioned from Masolino about 1425 and that at this time he
painted some lost scenes in the upper register of thechapel walls.
Thereafter he worked in Hungary, from which he returned in 1427 to
undertake, jointly with Masaccio, theremaining frescoes in the chapel.
By this time the balance of emphasis within the studio had shifted
toward Masaccio, and Masolino was responsible for only one fresco, that
of “St.Peter Preaching,” on the altar wall, and three scenes on the
right wall, the “Fall of Adam and Eve,” the “Healing of the Lame Man,”
and the “Raising of Tabitha,” where the perspective scheme seems to have
been worked out and in part realized by Masaccio.
Work on the Brancacci frescoes was abandoned in 1428, and probably at
this time Masolino received the commission for afresco cycle in the
Chapel of St. Catherine in S. Clemente in Rome and possibly executed his
double-sided triptych for Sta. Maria Maggiore in Rome. The two central
panels of this altarpiece, representing the foundation of Sta. Maria
Maggiore and the Assumption of the Virgin (Museo e GallerieNazionali di
Capodimonte, Naples), are among Masolino's most distinguished panel
paintings. The death of Masaccio in Rome in the autumn of 1428 marks a
turning point in Masolino's career, and the story of his later
development is that of a progressive return to the International Gothic
idiom of his youth. This is evident initially in the S. Clemente
frescoes (where the space construction is once more decorative and
systematized) and subsequently in a frescoed “Virgin and Child” in S.
Fortunato at Todi (1432) andin fresco cycles in the Baptistery
(completed 1435) and Collegiata at Castiglione Olona. The extensive
panoramas inthe backgrounds of the “Crucifixion” on the altar wall in S.
Clemente and the “Baptism of Christ” at Castiglione Olona are milestones
in the history of landscape painting. With their light tonality and
elegant, rhythmical figures, the scenes by Masolino in the Baptistery
and Collegiata form two of the most fascinating fresco cycles of the