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Virgin and Child with St. Anne (Masaccio)

The Madonna and Child with St. Anne, also known as Sant'Anna Metterza, is a painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio, probably in collaboration with Masolino da Panicale, c. 1424.

The Virgin and Child, with its powerful volume and solid possession of space by means of an assured perspectival structure, is one of the earliest works credited to Masaccio. But for one, the angels, very delicate in their tender forms and pale, gentle colouring, are from the more Gothic brush of Masolino; the angel in the upper righthand curve reveals the hand of Masaccio. The figure of St. Anne is much worn and hence to be judged with difficulty, but her hand, which seems to explore the depth of the picture-space, may well be an invention of Masaccio. The ‘Madonna and Child with Saint Anne’ was originally commissioned for the Sant’Ambrogio church in Florence. According to Vasari, “It was placed in the chapel door which leads to the nuns’ parlour”.

The figure of Christ is that of a young child, a realistic presence, rather than a gothic cherub. This is also one of the first paintings to display the effect of true natural light on the figure; it is this invention which imparts the modelling of form so characteristic of Masaccio, and which would have a profound influence on the painting of the Italian Renaissance.

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