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Masaccio and Gentile da Fabriano:

Competing Modes

As we saw in the Baptistry Competition between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, there were competing artistic visions in Florence at the same time. The same can be seen in Florentine painting in the 1420's. In 1423, a northern Italian artist, Gentile da Fabriano, completed for Palla Strozzi an altarpiece with the central image of Adoration of the Magi. This so-called Strozzi Altarpiece was intended for the sacristry of the church of Santa Trinita:

The Strozzi Chapel

Excerpt from John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, p. 198: At the beginning of the fifteenth century Onofrio Strozzi was head of the wealthiest family in Florence. When he died in 1418 he had already initiated work on his family burial chapel at Santa Trinita --which was also to serve as the church's sacristy. The chapel and much of its decoration were commissioned by Onofrio's son, Palla Strozzi. Documentary evidence indicates that Ghiberti was the architect --a choice that may reflect the fact that Palla Strozzi served as a member of the committee that ordered Ghiberti's north doors of the Baptistry.

The construction of the Strozzi Chapel can be compared with the building of the Old Sacristy at San Lorenzo by Giovanni and Cosimo de'Medici. The Strozzi and Medici were members of opposing political factions in the city. When control of the government passed to the Medici faction in 1434, Palla Strozzi was exiled --thus incidentally depriving the city of a potentially outstanding artistic patron. Although the Strozzi were considerably wealthier than the Medici when both began their building projects around 1418, the Old Sacristy was considerably larger and more insistently classicizing than the Strozzi commission. This gave the Medici an architectural prominence in the city far surpassing the Strozzi -- not only in their own time but until recently. The effect has been to distort understanding of the fifteenth century.

Limbourg Brothers, Adoration of the Magi and Journey of the Magi from the Très riches heures of Jean de Berry, c. 1415.


Compare and contrast this painting to the predella of the same subject matter that Masaccio included on his Pisa Altarpiece, c. 1426: