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MASACCIO (1402-1429)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 834 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MASACCIO (1402-1429), Italian painter. Tommaso Guidi, son of a notary, Ser Giovanni di Simone Guidi, of the family of the Scheggia, who had property in Castel S. Giovanni di Val d'Arno, was born in 1402 (according to Milanesi, on the 21st of December 1401), and acquired the nickname of Masaccio, which may be translated "Lubberly Tom," in consequence of his slovenly dressing and deportment. From childhood he showed a great inclination for the arts of design, and he is said to have studied under his contemporary Masolino da Panicale. In 1421, or perhaps 1423, he was enrolled in the gild of the speziali (druggists) in Florence, in 1424 in the gild of painters. His first attempts in painting were made in Florence, and then in Pisa. Next he went to Rome, still no doubt very young; although the statement that he returned from Rome to Florence, in 1420, when only eighteen or nineteen, seems incredible, considering the works he undertook in the papal city. These included a series of frescoes still extant in a chapel of the church of S. Clemente, a Crucifixion, and scenes from the life of St Catherine and of St Clement, or perhaps some other saint. Though much inferior to his later productions, these paintings are, for natural-ism and propriety of representation, in advance of their time. Some critics, however, consider that the design only, if even that, was furnished by Masaccio, and the execution left to an inferior hand; this appears highly improbable, as Masaccio, at his early age, can scarcely have held the position of a master laying out work for subordinates; indeed Vasari says that Lubberly Tom was held in small esteem at all times of his brief life. In the Crucifixion subject the group of the Marys is remarkable; the picture most generally admired is that of Catherine, in the presence of Maxentius, arguing against and converting eight learned doctors. After returning to Florence, Masaccio was chiefly occupied in painting in the church of the Carmine, and especially in that " Brancacci Chapel " which he has rendered famous almost beyond rivalry in the annals of painting. The chapel had been built early in the 15th century by Felice Michele di Piuvichese Brancacci, a noble Florentine. Masaccio's work in it began probably in 1423, and continued at intervals until II he finally quitted Florence in 1428. There is a whole library-shelf correctly, with action, liveliness and relief. Soon after his death, his work was recognized at its right value, and led to notable advances; and all the greatest artists of Italy, through studying the Brancacci chapel, became his champions and disciples. Of the works attributed to. Masaccio in public or private galleries hardly any are authentic. The one in the Florentine Academy, the " Virgin and Child in the Lap of St Anna, is an exception. The so-called portrait of Masaccio in the Uffizi Gallery is more probably Filippino Lippi; and Filippino, or Botticelli, may be the real author of the head, at first termed a Masaccio, in the National Gallery, London. An early work on Masaccio was that of T. Patch, Life with Engravings (Florence, 1770-1772). See Layard, The Brancacci Chapel, &c. (1868); H. Eckstein, Life of Masaccio, Giotto, &c. (1882); Charles Yriarte, Tommaso dei Guidi (1894). (W. M. R.)
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