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

Madonna and Child with St Anne

Tempera on panel, 175 x 103 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

In Florence the new age of the Renaissance began in painting with a rather subdued work, devoid of any rhetoric: the Madonna and Child with St Anne executed by Masolino and Masaccio in 1424.

The structure of this work is simple yet extraordinarily monumental. The succession of planes is compact and follows an upward direction, thus creating a pyramid shape. The composition can certainly attributed to Masaccio who executed only the Madonna and Child and the two angels (the upper right-hand one, and the one looking down from on high). A sense of grave dignity and power emanates from the faces, from the expressions and from the solidity of the bodies.

Despite the presence of a strong chiaroscuro, the painting is bright due to the use of a dense colour paste which absorbs the light and so heightens the tones. The light comes very distinctly from the left, and the figure of the Madonna casts a light but very visible shadow on the floor. The base and the throne are drawn according to precise points of reference which produce the effect of perspective.

This altarpiece depicting St Anne, Madonna and Child with five angels (called Sant'Anna Metterza) was originally painted for the Sant'Ambrogio Church in Florence. Deriving from the Tuscan dialect of the 13th and 14th centuries, the term Metterza means "she is in the third position", referring to such iconography where Anna, being mother and grandmother of Christ, appears in third position.

In 1940 art critic Roberto Longhi attributed to Masolino the execution of part of the painting that previously was ascribed in its entirety to Masaccio by Vasari.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.