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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Cassai, nicknamed Masaccio, is an influential Renaissance painter whose artwork gained incredible popularity through the last centuries.

The artist arose in the 15th century as a fresco artist who created Florentine paintings throughout chapels across Italy.

While the artist's career only last six years, Masaccio was able to leave his print of the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, and within an array of churches in Pisa.

Masaccio was well known for his grand altarpieces that were placed as the focal points within chapels.

The artist is most prominently know as one of the founding fathers of the Early Renisance Era in Italy, as he found an array of new approaches to art.

His style holds as the foundation of many Western paintings as he influences generations of artists.

Early Life

The artist was born in December 21st, 1401 in San Giovanni Valdarno, and died in the cold autumn of 1428 near Rome. The town in which he was born in was 40 miles south east of Florence in the provinces of Arezzo. Masaccio was born to a notary father named Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai. His mother, Monna Lacoula, was the prominent daughter of a wealthy innkeeper. Masaccio had only a brother who was also an artist named Lo Scheggia, translating to The Splinter.

The artist is believed to have given himself the nickname Masaccio, which translates as Big Tom or Clumsy Tom. The artist came about this name due to his neurotic character based on his careless attitude towards his appearance, work, and behavior.

The artist witnessed himself as good natured and innocent, yet acknowledged his internal conflicts towards his attitude and productivity.


Renaissance art seized the social order of Florence as artists were captivated by the popular style at the time. An array of structures and canvases followed in the style as it was the innovative style of the time. Masaccio viewed Renaissance art as a visual interpretation of the ancient world, mostly found through biblical scriptures.

It was prominently popular at the time for artists to illustrate artworks that reflected biblical stories or figures. Masaccio followed in this stream as he felt that he could intellectually display these stories through paint.

During the Renaissance period, art was often a family enterprise that was passed down from father to son. Art critics and historians popularity note that Masaccio and his brother did not become painters based on their fathers, as their father was involved in Notary.

It has been documented that Masaccio's grandfather was a carpenter who created chests, and many of these chests were painted for a visual appeal; perhaps creating a link towards Masaccio and his brothers' artistry.


The most debated and mysterious question behind MasaccioÕs artistic ability is where his knowledge and skill was based on. During the 15th century, if a man desired to become an artist he would be taken as an apprentice from a young age under a master who would teach him the fundamental principles of art. This couple would spend a multitude of years working with one another, as the head would teach his protege the art of art.

The startling question behind Masaccio is that there are no documents or notes that the artist had received any formal training. It is certainly believed that the artist had studied somewhere with someone, however no factual information remains clear.

Art during the Renaissance Era was popularity learned through imitation and practice, so perhaps Masaccio spend a great deal of time studying the great art works at the time. Yet, due to the limited number of paintings, and the difficulty of transportation; it is highly unlikely that Masaccio learned the art of painting on his own. A teacher was needed in order for Masaccio to follow in their footsteps and learn.

Alongside, art critics lust over the question of who taught Masaccio the principles and technique of art, as it would showcase what the artist was influenced on and where his style originated from.


Masaccio was only truly documented in 1422 as he entered the Florentine Arte due Medici e Soeziali, a group of prominent painters. Many believe that the artist was already fully developed within his work by this time, holding his own studio in which he created his work.

The first artwork by Masaccio dates back to April 23rd 1422 titled San Giovenale Triptych Masaccio. The classic painting illustrates Mother Mary and her son, as she is surrounded by pure angels honouring their presence. On the outskirts of the painting, an additional two portraits stand on either side of prominent Saints.

The significance of the artwork is that it was Masaccio's founding piece that illustrating his initial style and technique. It is captivating for viewers to witness as it is incredibly detailed and continues to upraise the question of where did Masaccio gain this knowledge.

The style of the work is regarded as an eclectic style, which is a technique in which the artist uses the surrounding environment of the painting to compose different sections. This technique allows for the artist to gain a sufficient understand of the best way to illustrate something. The artwork powerfully demonstrates this skill as the different elements intertwine with one another and unify as one.

Masaccio was commissioned to paint an altarpiece for the Santa Maria Novella Church in Italy. The painting titled, The Holy Trinity, showcased the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all as one. The artwork was conceived closer to the end of MasaccioÕs career, yet showcased a transition in his work. The painting illustrates a vanishing point, allowing for the painting t carry more depth and form to it. The fresco showcases Masaccio's understand of space and the environment around his work. The single viewpoint throughout the painting met the viewer's eye level, allowing for the figures within the painting to truly come to life.

The artist went on to paint an array of biblical paintings that seized scripture stories and prime time figures to be displayed within his artwork. The artist was highly commissioned by chapels across Italy to create captivating alter pieces for their churches.


While it continues to remain unknown of exactly where Masaccio had seized his artistry and who taught him; there is an array of similar techniques Masaccio used that are related to prior artists. The light atmosphere showcased through Masaccio's artwork significantly resembles artist Giotto. The artist had used a more realistic approach throughout his art in order to seize the elements of nature.

While it remains unknown as to who exactly influenced Masaccio, historians have stated that prominent artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, were highly stunned by sculptural techniques throughout Masaccio's work.