MASACCIO
(b. 1401, San Giovanni Valdarno, d. 1428, Roma)

Crucifixion

c. 1426
Panel, 83 x 63 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

On February 19th 1426 Masaccio agreed to paint an altarpiece for a chapel in the church of the Carmine in Pisa for the sum of 80 florins. On December 26th of that year the work must have been already completed since payment for it is recorded on this date. Vasari gave a detailed description of the work which was the basis for art critics for the attempt at reconstruction and for the recovery and identification of the work which was dismantled and dispersed in the 18th century. Only eleven pieces have so far come to light and they are not sufficient to enable a reliable reconstruction of the whole work. The Crucifixion is one of the eleven panels (one of the top panels) connected with the Pisa Polyptych.

As in the main panel, the Gothic arch determines the pictorial frame, the upward stress of which Masaccio modifies in his composition. To counter the vertical trust imposed by the arch, Masaccio creates a strong horizontal effect with the rather exaggerated extension of the arms of Christ on the cross. Although Masaccio still uses the gilt background for his representation, the atmospheric effects remain hauntingly convincing.




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