Masaccio 1401 – 1428

Rendering of the Tribute Money

fresco (255 × 598 cm) — 1425 Museum Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

Masaccio biography

This work is linked to Matthew 17:24

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At Capernaum Jesus and his disciples are required to pay tax. The man with his back to the viewer is the publican, or tax collector. Jesus bids Peter cast his fishing line – in the mouth of the first catch a stater shall be found: a penny valued 4 drachms.

In the background left, Peter removes the coin from the fish's mouth. The right side shows Peter handing the stater to the publican.

The fresco is considered a highlight in Masaccio's work (it was finished by his associate Masolino). It is a milestone in the development of renaissance art, because Masaccio applied several techniques that were revolutionary in the 15th century.

Two techniques are used to create depth: linear and aerial perspective. Linear perspective is achieved through the lines in the building. Several lines point to Jesus' head, the vanishing point. By using lighter colours Peter and the mountains are put in the virtual background - the atmospheric perspective.

Further, Masaccio used a single source of light, whereas in the work of his predecessors and contemporaries the light seemed to come from everywhere. That creates real shadows and gives the otherwise flat figures three dimensions.

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