castiglione florence masaccio
MASOLINO DA. PANICALE (1383–c. 1440). The life and art-work of this Florentine painter were related by Vasari in a form which is partly demonstrated and partly inferred to be highly incorrect. We shall follow the account supplied, and in many respects carefully vouched, by Messrs Crowe and Cavalcaselle.
Masolino (a name which corresponds to " Tommy ") was said to have been born at Panicale di Valdelsa, near Florence. It is more probable, however, that he was born in Florence itself, his father, Cristoforo Fini, who was an " imbiancatore " or whitewasher, having been domiciled in the Florentine quarter of S. Croce. There is reason to believe that Tommaso, nicknamed Masolino, was a pupil of the painter Stamina, and was principally influenced in style by Antonio Veneziano ; he may probably enough have become in the sequel the master of Masaccio. His birth took place in 1383 ; his death later than 1429, perhaps as late as 1440. The only works which can with certainty be assigned to him are a series of wall paintings executed towards 1428, commissioned by Cardinal Branda, Castiglione, in the church of Castiglione d'Olona, not far from Milan, and another series in the adjoining baptistery. The first set is signed as painted by " Masolinus de Florentia." It was recovered in 1843 from a coating cf whitewash, and is not a little damaged ; its subject-matter is taken from the lives of the Virgin and of Sts Lawrence and Stephen. The series in the baptistery relates to the life and death of John the Baptist. The reputation of Masolino kad hitherto rested almost entirely upon the considerable share which he was supposed to have had in the celebrated frescos of the Brancacci chapel, in the church of the Carmine in Florence ; be was regarded as the precursor of Masaccio, and by many years the predecessor of Filippino Lippi, in the execution of a large proportion of these works. Now, however, from a comparison of the Castiglione with the Brancacci frescos, and from other data, it is greatly doubted whether Masolino had any hand at all in the latter series. Possibly he painted in the Brancacci chapel certain specified subjects which are now either destroyed or worked over. Of other and still existing subjects, hitherto assigned to Masolino on the authority of Vasari and later writers, the authorship is now more reasonably ascribed to Masaccio, - except only that one compartment, that which represents in one half Peter reviving Ta,bitha (or curing Petronilla), and in the other half Peter and John healing a cripple, remains in suspense between Masaccio and Masolino. In the Castiglione frescos there is some tenderness of expression, and the nude figures are studied with an amount of care superior to their epoch ; generally the parts are well made out, but without unity of composition, or mastery of perspective, or of contrast and chiaroscuro. The merit of these works is not to be compared with that of the Brancacci frescos, unless in the single instance above excepted.
The now ascertained facts of Masolino's life are that towards 1423 he entered the service of Filippo Scolari, the Florentine-born obergespan of Temeswar in Hungary, that he stayed in consequence some time in that country, and that, returning towards 1427 to Italy, he painted the works in Castiglione. Thus he resettled in Lombardy, not in Florence ; nor is there anything to show that he returned to his Tuscan home at a later date.