Masaccio's The Holy Trinity

Masaccio's The Holy Trinity

Easter greetings from the Academy! This Easter break we are returning to the Early Renaissance with our new film on Masaccio's 'Holy Trinity'. Find out why this painting - and the telling of the story -  is so important to the history of art. 

Students TOP TIP! Masaccio is an artist featured in the Art History A Level topic 'Invention and illusion: the Renaissance in Italy (1420‒1520)'.

The Easter Story

If you go into any museum displaying Western art you're almost guaranteed to find an image of the crucifixion. Why is this image so popular and what can it tell us about the development of art? The crucifixion tells the story central to Christian teaching of Christ dying on the cross to save the world from its sins. It was one of the most popular scenes in medieval times and was used as an icon and hung from the ceiling of churches. What makes Masaccio's Crucifixion, or 'Holy Trinity', so important  -- and why it's our film of the week! - is how the artist was the very first to use Brunelleschi's concept of linear perspective in Western painting; consequently this image is now seen as one marking the beginnings of the early Renaissance. 


Did You Know?

If you're unsure of the figures surrounding the crucifixion, it's often guaranteed to include at least the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist. However, Masaccio's 'Holy Trinity' also includes two figures who aren't part of the Crucifixion story. Can you spot them on the far left and right? Their names are not known, but we can gather that they are husband and wife and were the donors for the painting due to their inclusion in the scene. They are in profile and kneel on a level below that of the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, signifying that they belong in a realm below that of the spiritual. Beneath them is a far darker image - a skeleton lies in a tomb with an inscription above stating  "I once was what you are and what I am you also will be". This is at eye-level to the viewer and acts as a memento mori - a reminder of death!