St Anne Metterza (Madonna and Child with Saint Anne)
Artist: Masaccio; Tempera on panel; Size: 175x103 cm; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
The panel, which comes from the Florentine church of Sant'Ambrogio but whose original location is unknown, was painted by Masaccio and Masolino. The distinction between the work of the two artists, first proposed with precision by the art historian Roberto Longhi, assigns the Madonna and Child and the angel holding the drape on the right to Masaccio and the rest of the painting to Masolino, except perhaps the angel at the top of the composition. The name given to the panel in Italian, Sant'Anna Metterza, refers to the iconography, in which St. Anne is placed behind the group of the Virgin and her son. It is not clear whether it is a collaborative effort, painted some time around the decoration of the Brancacci Chapel, or a picture left incomplete by Masaccio and finished by Masolino. Certainly it is an exceptional document that allows us to gauge exactly the distance, in terms of style, between the two painters.
Note, for example, the confident handling of the perspective of the Child's hand resting on his mother's, in contrast to Masolino's attempt at foreshortening St. Anne's hands. Even though the older artiststrengthens his chiaroscuro, as if seeking a three-dimensional effect similar to that of his young colleague, he cannot compete with the classical solidity of Masaccio's figures. Here the painter, probably around twenty-three at the time, draws on a work of art from antiquity, a marble Roman copy of a Greek original representing a putto, now in the Uffizi: the beautiful nude of the Child is an antiquarian and classical citation, concealed in a sacred context, that brings Masaccio's art into line with the Humanistic and archeological culture that fascinated Brunelleschi and Donatello in those years.
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