The Expulsion From the Garden of Eden by Masaccio
Interpretation of Biblical Fresco Painting (Brancacci Chapel)

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Expulsion From the Garden of Eden by Masaccio
Expulsion of Adam & Eve
From the Garden of Eden.
Iconic Christian art by
Masaccio. One of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.

Expulsion From the Garden of Eden (1426-7)

Contents

Description
Interpretation /Meaning of Expulsion From the Garden of Eden
Further Resources

Description

Artist: Masaccio (1401-28)
Medium: Fresco
Genre: Religious history painting.
Movement: Early Renaissance painting.
Location: Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

For other great pictures, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.


Renaissance Posters
Fine art posters of images
by Masaccio, are
widely available online.
See also: Poster Art.

Art Appreciation
To understand works by
Tommaso Masaccio,
see our educational
article for students:
Art Evaluation:
How to Appreciate Art
.

Interpretation

Masaccio's Expulsion of Adam and Eve From the Garden of Eden (known in Italian as Cacciata dei progenitori dall'Eden), is one of the Brancacci Chapel frescoes which he painted for the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. An iconic gallery of Early Renaissance painting, the fresco cycle - which also includes The Tribute Money as well as The Baptism of the Neophytes, St Peter Healing the Sick with his Shadow and The Distribution of Alms and Death of Ananias - is regarded as one of the most important expressions of the Renaissance in Florence. Indeed, most art historians rank Masaccio (1401-28) alongside the two other celebrated pioneers of Renaissance art, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and the sculptor Donatello (1386-1466). He is noted, in particular, for his naturalism, his realistic style of three-dimensional figures, and his mastery of linear perspective, as exemplified by the mural painting in the Brancacci Chapel and The Holy Trinity (1428, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.)

 

Illustration From Book of Genesis

The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden illustrates the account from the Book of Genesis chapter 3. It shows a desperately distressed Adam and Eve being cast out from their home. Weighed down by guilt, they are chased from the garden by a threatening angel. Adam covers his face in shame, while Eve's embarrassment is such that she tries to cover her body with her hands. It is believed that Masaccio's figure of Eve was strongly influenced by the Biblical art of the Italian medieval sculptor Giovanni Pisano (1250-1314), notably the expressionism of the Last Judgment (1255, Pulpit of Baptistery of Pisa). Donatello has been cited as the main influence for Adam, which is hardly surprising. Masaccio used to follow Donatello whenever he went out walking in Florence with Brunelleschi, in order to learn all he could about new painting techniques.

Analysis

When interpreting and analyzing The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, one should note the following. (1) The dramatic but down-to-earth images of Adam and Eve. Masaccio wants us to see and feel their pain. Emotions are naturally conveyed through gestures and faces. What's more, the couple have been given very ordinary physical features. There is no attempt at idealization. So far, Masaccio is clearly following in the footsteps of Giotto and his Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel frescoes. (2) The manner in which Masaccio portrays the couple's three-dimensional form. Note that, unlike his illustrious predecessor from the Proto-Renaissance era, he employs perspective, colour, directional light and chiaroscuro, in order to depict volume without the need for outlines. This leads to significantly greater realism, and is one of the hallmarks of figurative painting of the Florentine Renaissance. To see how Masaccio's progressive approach differed from the more conventional methods of others, contrast his Expulsion from the Garden of Eden with the Gothic style of the fresco opposite - The Temptation by Masolino (1383-1432).

Curiously, the nudity of Masaccio's Adam and Eve - so characteristic of the Humanistic aesthetics of Renaissance art - proved too much for public taste during the Late Baroque era of the 1670s. As a result, Cosimo III de' Medici (1642-1723), the sixth Grand Duke of Tuscany, added fig leaves to conceal their genitalia. This covering was only removed in the 1980s when the fresco painting was restored and cleaned. Sadly, the clean-up was unable to restore the blue of the sky.

Influence

Like his other works, Masaccio's Expulsion had a significant impact on his contemporaries as well as later painters of the High Renaissance, including the great Florentine fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94). It was through Ghirlandaio, who taught Michelangelo (1475-1564), that Masaccio came to influence Il Divino and his famous Sistine Chapel frescoes: in particular Michelangelo's ceiling picture "The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" in the Genesis fresco.

 


 

Further Resources

If you're interested in Early Renaissance paintings, try these resources:

Gentile da Fabriano (c.1370-1427)
Paolo Uccello (1397-1475)
The Annunciation (1450)
Early Renaissance Artists

• For more about Italian fine art painting, see our main index: Homepage.


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