(b ?Panicale, ?c.1383; d ?c.1435/40).
Italian painter, an enigmatic and intriguing figure. He presumably came from Panicale in Umbria, and he worked in various places in Italy (and also in Hungary), but he is regarded as a member of the Florentine School. According to Vasari he trained as a sculptor and goldsmith under Ghiberti, but his early life is obscure. For a short period his career was closely linked to that of Masaccio, but the exact nature of their association remains ill-defined (the nickname Masolino, meaning ‘Little Tom’, suggests almost that he and Masaccio—‘Big’ or ‘Hulking Tom’—were thought of as a kind of double act). The tradition that he was Masaccio's master is now dismissed, for he became a member of the painters' guild in Florence only in 1423 (a year after Masaccio) and although he was evidently almost two decades older, it was he who was influenced by Masaccio rather than the other way round. On stylistic grounds they are thought to have collaborated on the Madonna and Child with St Anne (c.1425, Uffizi, Florence), and Vasari records that they worked together on the decoration of the Brancacci Chapel of S. Maria del Carmine in Florence (c.1425–8). Masolino's style was softer and more graceful than Masaccio's and there is a fair measure of agreement about the division of hands in the chapel. The contrast in style is seen most clearly in the frescos of the Temptation of Adam and Eve and the Expulsion from Paradise: Masolino's nude figures in the Temptation have an almost doll-like daintiness, whereas Masaccio's in the Expulsion are massively powerful and convey a feeling of tragic intensity. After Masaccio's early death Masolino's style became more decorative. At his best he was a painter of great distinction, his masterpiece perhaps being the fresco of the Baptism of Christ (c.1435) in the Baptistery at Castiglione d'Olona, near Como, a graceful and lyrical work that is a world away from Masaccio's sombre Baptism of the Neophytes in the Brancacci Chapel.
Subjects: Art — History by Period.