Masaccio’s Holy Trinity

Masaccio’s Holy Trinity
Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most intersting frescos painted on the interior walls of Santa Maria Novella is the famous Holy Trinity by Masaccio (1401-1428). The fresco is too big (667 x 317 cm) and is located along the middle of the basilica’s left aisle. According to Wikipedia:

Although the configuration of this space has changed since the artwork was created, there are clear indications that the fresco was aligned very precisely in relationship with the sight-lines and perspective arrangement of the room at the time; particularly a former entrance-way facing the painting; in order to enhance the tromp l’oeil effect. There was also an altar, mounted as a shelf-ledge between the upper and lower sections of the fresco, further emphasizing the “reality” of the artiface.

This picture is very interesting for us due to the perspective which can be observed in it. Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) wrote about it that:

a barrel vault represented in perspective, and divided into squares full of bosses, which diminish and are foreshortened so well that the wall seems to be hollowed out.

So Masaccio created a three-dimensional space behind the main stars of the picture. If we look carefully at the vault over God and Jesus we’ll be able to trace all the ortogonals in the ceiling and check that the vanishing point is located below the base of the cross. Masaccio designed this vaulted space in an empirical way althought the artistical illusion of depth isn’t so sophisticated.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, when you come inside Santa Maria Novella, Masaccio’s fresco welcomes you and its vanishing point aligned with your eyes makes you feel a very good ad mathematical feeling:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Santa Maria Novella (map)


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