MASOLINO da Panicale
(b. 1383, Panicale, d. 1447, Firenze)

Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabatha (left view)

Fresco, 255 x 162 cm (full fresco)
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

Both the events depicted in this fresco are recounted in the Acts of the Apostles: the healing of the cripple in Jerusalem (3: 1-10) and the raising of Tabitha in Joppa (9: 36 43). Masolino sets both events in the same town although they had actually taken place in different cities and at different times.

This detail shows the left side of the fresco with the scene Healing the Cripple.

In the square there are two elegantly dressed characters, in the centre of the scene, who separate but also provide the link between the two miraculous events. The presence of these two figures, and also the characters depicted in the background in front of the houses, makes the two events look like normal everyday occunences in the life of a city. The square resembles a contemporary Florentine piazza and the houses in the background, although none of them is strictly speaking an accurate portrayal of an existing building, convey the idea of Florentine architecture, as we still know it today. Even the paving of the street, different from that of the square, is a note of pure realism: the cobblestones, decreasing in size as they recede., also serve to emphasize the perspective of the composition.

And there are other elements which contribute to this description of everyday city life: the flower pots on the window sills, the laundry hanging out to dry,the bird cages, the two monkeys, the people leaning out of the windows to chat with their neighbours, and so on.

In the past the loggia to the left had been considered by critics to be architecturally fragile and unconvincing. But now, thanks to the restoration, we can make out the structural elements: from the smooth capitals of the pilasters, to the red plaster inside the courts.

And even in the righthand loggia, where the miracle. of the raising of Tabitha takes place, the classical, Albertian colour pattern of the surfaces and the entablatures increases the solidity of the architecture.

Throughout the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, scholars attributed this fresco to Masaccio, until 1929 when it was re-attributed to Masolino. Some critics claimed that there were sections painted by Masaccio. In 1940 it was suggested that Masaccio was responsible for the entire architectural background of the scene, including the figures in the background. This theory was accepted by almost all later scholars.

Since the restoration, now that the pictorial techniques can be clearly distinguished, we can rule out any intervention by Masaccio at all, at any rate in the actual execution.

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