Saints Liberius and Matthias (c. 1428) by Masaccio

Saints Liberius and Matthias - Masaccio - c. 1428

Artwork Information

TitleSaints Liberius and Matthias
Datec. 1428
MediumEgg tempera on poplar, transferred to synthetic panel
Dimensions114.5 x 55 cm
Current LocationNational Gallery, London

About Saints Liberius and Matthias

The panel displaying Saints Liberius and Matthias is attributed to Masaccio and Masolino. Originally, it was part of a double-sided altarpiece commissioned by the Colonna family for the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Masaccio, known for his realistic depictions of figures and use of perspective, collaborated with Masolino on large-scale projects, and learned from sculpture how to add a sense of reality to his depictions of holy figures.

One of Masaccio’s significant accomplishments is the Pisa Altarpiece, considered the first spatially-correct painting in Western Art. Mathematical methods were used to create 3D objects resulting in a more realistic portrayal of the scene. The painting’s use of perspective creates a sense of depth, with the figures appearing to recede into the background. The figures are portrayed as monumental, with intense expressions, and tonal modeling creating the illusion of three-dimensionality.

The portrayal of Saints Liberius and Matthias features the two figures with their hands raised in prayer. Liberius, the Bishop of Rome, is wearing a long robe with a mantle draped over his shoulders. Matthias, one of the twelve apostles, is wearing simpler clothing, and holds a book signifying his role as a teacher who spreads the word of God. Both figures are depicted with realism, well-defined muscles, and anatomically-correct proportions. Overall, the panel showcases the exquisite use of perspective, realistic portrayal of figures, and masterful technique of Masaccio and Masolino.

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