Holy Trinity-Masaccio


  •  Holy Trinity
  • Masaccio
  • 1424
  • Fresco

In the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence is one of the best examples of the early Renaissance scientific approach to creating the convincing illusion of space within a painting.  It is here, on one of the walls inside the church, that Masaccio painted his fresco of the Holy Trinity in 1424.

The title of the painting comes from the three key figures: Christ on the cross, God the Father standing on a ledge behind Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Interestingly, God the Father is shown standing on a platform in the back, which is not an “otherworldly” place (where he would be traditionally depicted), but instead a realistic space which follows the laws of physics.  Mary and St. John are also present at the Crucifixion at the foot of the cross, and one step down from them are Masaccio’s donors to either side.  Unlike the biblical and divine figures, the donors are meant to appear to be in our space (the space of the viewer), and not in the recessed space in which the cross is located.

If we look at the composition of the figures, we see that they are in a kind of pyramidal
shape.  This is similar to composition of many other Renaissance works, such as Brunelleschi’s competition panel for the bronze doors of the Florence baptistery

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this fresco is the way Masaccio makes use of one-point linear perspective to convey the sense that the images recedes back in space.  The coffers on the ceiling create the orthogonal lines, and the vanishing point is at base of cross, which happens to be at the eye level of the viewer.  This creates the sense that the space we are looking at in the fresco is actually a continuation of the chapel space in which the fresco is painted.   In my opinion he paid extremely close attention to the dimensions of the objects and spaces that he painted, so much so that you can actually determine the dimensions of the room we are looking at in the fresco as states Italian renaissance, the perspectives that create dimensions mentioned above are showing us that in this painting we can find the theme of realism.


“Masaccio’s Holy Trinity – ItalianRenaissance.org.” ItalianRenaissance.org. N.p., 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.


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