Masaccio: the Holy Trinity

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The Holy Trinity by Masaccio was done approximately 1428. It is a superb example of Masaccio's use of space and perspective. It consists of two levels of unequal height. Christ is represented on the top half, in a coffered, barrel-vaulted chapel. On one side of him is the Virgin Mary, and on the other, St. John. Christ himself is supported by God the Father, and the Dove of the Holy Spirit rests on Christ's halo. In front of the pilasters that enframe the chapel kneel the donors (husband and wife). Underneath the altar (a masonry insert in the painted composition) is a tomb. Inside the tomb is a skeleton, which may represent Adam. The vanishing point is at the center of the masonry altar, because this is the eye level of the spectator, who looks up at the Trinity and down at the tomb. The vanishing point, five feet above the floor level, pulls both views together. By doing this, an illusion of an actual structure is created. The interior volume of this 'structure' is an tension of the space that the person looking at the work is standing in. The adjustment of the spectator to the pictured space is one of the first steps in the development of illusionistic painting. Illusionistic painting fascinated many artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.The proportions in this painting are so numerically exact that one can actually calculate the numerical dimensions of the chapel in the background. The span of the painted vault is seven feet, and the depth is nine feet. "Thus, he achieves not only successful illusion, but a rational, metrical coherence that, by maintaining the mathematical proportions of the surface design, is responsible for the unity and harmony of this monumental composition." Two principal interests are summed up by The Holy Trinity: Realism based on observation, and the application of mathematics to pictorial organization.All of the figures are fully clothed, except for that of Christ himself. He is, however, wearing a robe...
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