Santa Maria del Carmine and the Cappella Brancacci

Exterior of Cappella Brancacci


Courtyard of the Santa Maria del CarmineView looking back from the altarThe Maria del Carmine and the Cappella Brancacci complex is located in Oltrarno, just off the Piazza del Carmine. It has a nondescript exterior, one that gives little indication of being a church, and even less of an indication that the art that launched the Renaissance is contained within. The Maria del Carmine (whose cloister courtyard is shown to the left) was set up Carmelite friars from Pisa in the 1200's. Barely visible in the picture to the left are the frescoes that line the upper walls of the cloisters. The main attraction, however, is the Brancacci Chapel, located behind the cloisters. An ornate Cappella, the Brancacci Chapel is lavishly adorned with frescoes. The photo to the right shows the vault at the end of the chapel, opposite the altar. (The photographs are all a bit grainy, as the chapel is very dark, and no flash photography is permitted).

Notice the Pipe Organ behind the CandelabrasThe Masolino/Massacio Frescoes in the Altar AreaEqually impressive is the altar located to the right of the pews in the Brancacci chapel, a series of large candelabras in front of a large pipe organ. The main altar area contains a series of frescoes begun by Masolino da Pincale in 1424, commissioned by Felice Brancacci, a wealthy Florentine merchant. Four years later, Massacio took over for Masolino, but died later that year. The remainder of the frescoes were completed much later (in the 1480's) by Filippo Lippi. The original frescoes by Masolino dealt with the life of St. Peter, but the completed set of panels begin with Adam and Eve. Of course the masterpiece here is Massacio's Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (bottom left). This is one of the earliest examples of realism, created through the use of chiaroscuro and linear perspective, both of which set the tone for much of the Renaissance. However, it is interesting to note that this painting is but one small panel in the upper left hand corner Here it is, tucked away in the upper corner of the Chapelof the altar area. Equally notable is the comparison of Massacio's profoundly vivid and real depiction of St. Peter, which contrasts markedly with the more otherworldly St. Peter of Masolino. One could say that the spirit of Renaissance painting began with this single obscure panel in the Branacci Chapel.


Frescoes of the Branacci Chapel
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The Wet Wall
Brancacci Alter Area
Brancacci East Wall
West Wall (Clockwise from top left): The Expulsion of Adam and Eve, The Tribute Money, St. Peter EnthronedThe Raising of Theophilus' Son, St. Paul Visiting St. Peter in Prison
The Altar Area (Clockwise, from very top left): St. Peter Weeping, The Denial of Christ, Baptism of the Neophytes, The Death of Ananias, St. Peter Healing with His Shadow, St. Peter Preaching
The East Wall (Clockwise, form top left): The Healing of the Cripple, The Raising of Tabitha, Original Sin, The Liberation of St. Peter, St. Peter and Simon Magus before Nero, The Crucifixion of St. Peter