By Maria Alambritis

On 29 November 1425, construction began of the chapel of St. Julian in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Pisa, which was to house Masaccio’s masterwork the ‘Pisa Altarpiece’.

The chapel itself was commissioned by the Pisan notary Ser Giuliano di Colino di Pietro degli Scarsi (1369-1456) and orchestrated by the mason Pippo di Gante.

The painter Masaccio was commissioned for the central altarpiece. Active in Florence during the 1420s, he is perhaps best know for his collaboration with Masolino on the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine of Florence.

The central panel of Masaccio’s ‘Pisa altarpiece’ depicts The Virgin and Child, and is the only one of Masaccio’s paintings to be documented. The panel has been substantially cut down and the surface altered by successive retouching and damage, while also separated from the other panels of the altarpiece. However, in Masaccio’s use of a monumental architectural throne to give the suggestion of plausible space and emphasise the figure of the Virgin and the convincing use of light to further enhance the illusion of space, this panel marks a key moment in the development of Renaissance art.


Dunkerton, Jill. Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.  

Hellmut Wohl. “Masaccio.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press,

Rowlands, Eliot W. Masaccio: Saint Andrew and the Pisa altarpiece. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2003.


Masaccio, The Virgin and Child, 1426, egg tempera on poplar, 135.5 x 73cm, National Gallery, London.

Reconstruction of Masaccio’s Pisan altarpiece after C. Gardner von Teuffel.

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