3. Artistic work
4. Conclusion: Masaccio’s contribution to the development
Tommaso Cassai was an extremely popular Italian painter who
made a significant contribution in the development of Italian
art and marked the progress of the Renaissance art in Italy.
His works were characterized by implementation of innovative
techniques which singled him out among the rest of his contemporaries
working in traditional styles and using traditional techniques.
Remarkably, the painter became widely known as Masaccio but
not as Tommaso Cassai. At the same time, the nickname given
to him fully corresponded not only to his personality and
character but also to his work and, in a way, illustrated
his significance to Italian art. In this respect, it should
be said that Masaccio may be itepreted in different ways as
‘big’, ‘clumsy’, or ‘messy’
but it is true that despite his clumsiness he became a really
big or even great artist of his epoch.
Naturally, Masaccio did not become a famous artist in a day,
instead he had a long way to go to gain the public recognition
and his life produced a profound impact on his creative work.
Primarily, it is necessary to point out that Masaccio was
born on December 21, 1401, in the Italian town of San Giovanni
Valdarmo. His parents were not very rich people and, in actuality,
had little relations to art and artistic work. It should be
said that his father was a notary in San Giovanni Valdarmo
but the boy practically did not know his father who had died
in 1406 when Masaccio was only five years old. His mother
was a daughter of innkeeper in the neighboring town. Remarkably
that the family name of Masaccio came form the trade of his
grandfather and granduncle, who were carpenters, notably cabinet
makers that stands for ‘casse’ in Italian, therefore,
the family name was cassai which really had a little to do
with painting or art.
In such a situation, it seems to be quite strange that Masaccio
became a painter but, to a significant extent, such a choice
of the future occupation became possible due to the stable
childhood of the boy and opportunities to focus on his favorite
hobby, painting. At the same time, the comfortable childhood
of the boy was basically guaranteed by the second husband,
Tedesco, his mother remarried after the death of Masaccio’s
However, Tedesco died when the boy was about 16 and, thus,
he had to start his own professional career. At this period
of time, the family moved to Florence, where Masaccio actually
started his creative work, though, it should be pointed out
that information about this early period of his life is scarce.
Nonetheless, it is known that in 1422 he joined one of the
seven main craft’s guilds in Florence, and it was in
this city that he received his nickname which made him known
and popular not only at his epoch but also for centuries ahead,
though, it was naturally not the nickname that made him popular
but it was the works of artist that made his nickname well-recognized.
Basically, the painter received such a bit unpleasant nickname
because of his appearance, though his personal qualities were
highly appreciated by his contemporaries and it is also worthy
of mention that this nickname was also used by his colleagues
simply to distinguish Masaccio from his collaborator, Masolino.
The following life of the painter was basically concentrated
on work that was probably the major goal of his life, which,
though, was quite short but very productive. The painter died
at the end of 1428, at the age of 27, and it is worthy of
mention that it is still argued that he was poisoned by a
jealous painter ().
On analyzing the artistic work of Masaccio, it should be said
that it was clearly distinguished from the works of other
painters of that time. His work was characterized as innovative
and, to a certain extent, it might be viewed as experimental.
It is necessary to underline that there are actually a few
works that have survived till the present days and are definitely
defined as being created by Masaccio. Nonetheless, his real
artistic heritage was substantially larger but, for the modern
connoisseurs of art, it is basically known only from Vasari’s
As for his first works, it should be said that one of the
earliest ones are considered to be the Cascia Alterpiece,
created in 1422, which pictures the Madonna enthroned with
angels and saints, and a Virgin and Chile with Saint Anne,
created about 1424. Specialists underline that even these
early works are characterized by the high quality of performance
(Vasari 154), though it is worthy of mention that the latter
was created in a collaboration with Mosalino who was more
famous artist at the epoch of the creation of that painting.
In fact, it was the first but not the last collaboration of
two great artists.
In this respect, it is worthy of mention that Vasari underlines
that the cooperation of two artists continued as they traveled
throughout Italy. At the same time, he underlines that Masacccio
managed to reject the influences of traditional Gothic and
Byzantine style that may be seen in his altarpiece for the
Carmelite Church in Pisa (Vasari 184).
At the same time, it is possible to trace the influence of
ancient artists and ancient Greek and Roman style on the work
of Masaccio which, actually, were also attributed to the consequences
of the painters trip throughout Italy. This influence could
be observed in Sagra, a fresco commissioned for the consecration
ceremony of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence,
which, unfortunately, was lost when the church’s cloister
was rebuilt at the end of the 16th century.
However, his most famous works were created later. Among these
works may be named the “Resurrection of the son of Theophilus”,
the famous fresco which the artist painted as a pavement in
perspective, framed by large buildings to obtain the depth
of field and three-dimensional space in which the figures
are placed proportionate to their surrounding that was quite
a revolutionary technique for that epoch. At least, it was
a really innovative work which brought the recognition of
the artist’s genius.
Another outstanding work of the artist was the “Expulsion
from the Garden of Eden created at the end of his life in
`426-1427. Masaccio depicted distressed Adam and Eve nude
that was also quite unusual at the epoch and, what is more,
this work produced a profound impact on other artists, including
Michelangelo. Not less, innovative was “The Tribute
Money”, in which the painter depicted Jesus and the
Apostles as neo-classical archetypes.
Conclusion: Masaccio’s contribution in the development
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible
to conclude that Masaccio produced a profound impact on the
development of art of his epoch. His creative work affected
numerous artists that gained world recognition due to the
borrowing the experience from Masaccio. Hs innovative technique
and views on perspective were really important to the development
of art contributing to its higher realism, while his reference
to classical works of ancient Greek and Roman artists make
it possible to speak about the historical correlation between
the art of different epochs which Masaccio attempted to realize
in his works. In fact, Masaccio was the first great artist
of the Renaissance and he was the first who used scientific
perspective in his painting and moved from traditional Gothic
and Byzantine style a new more naturalistic and realistic
1. Burckhardt, J. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.
New York: Random House, 2001.
2. Vasari, G. The Lives of the Artists. New York: Routledge,