Friday, June 08, 2007

Massacio's 'Trinity'

Masaccio's Trinity (1427), with its architectural fetishism and hyper realistic detail foreshadows surrealism. The dying Christ is anachronistically suspended above the Church altar, like an insect in a spider web. He seems to be suspended above the barrel vault, as if He could fall through the doors in back. The perspective has been altered. Massacio has shifted the abyss from the Vertical to the Horizontal. Christ, of course, can only ascend; we're not so lucky.


Holly said...

I was reading yesterday about what it means, that Christ is wearing a loincloth--also an anachronism, prisoners were stripped nekkid prior to crucifixion. There's a huge* debate about that. Some say it's to preserve the decency of church goers, but if you poke around enough, you can find not only naked Christ figures, but also some sporting wood. In church! Which supposedly indicates the potency of the situation.

But back to this particular Masaccio... seems to me that by putting Christ in the context of a building, rather than (for example) against a backdrop of roiling heavens, what's the artist is actually doing is threatening the viewer with involvement. It's a psychological ploy--we can much more clearly visualize ourselves against a backdrop of a building, than with the host of angels at our backs. And, assuming that's God Himself lurking behind the Christ, we have to think about whether The Man is standing directly behind us, as well--it's a mirror of sorts.

And, also, he was probably making some ostentation with his newfound scientific perspective technique.

* I use the term "huge debate" among art historians generously. These are not, as a group, hot blooded people, unless you're talking about cleaning the Sistene Chapel or bulldozing a Mayan temple...

Rufus said...

I've loved that painting since I first saw it in university. I think a big part of what I like is the garish pedagogy of it- Remember that Christ is all around you... in fact, here he is! I like that God is displaying Christ like a butcher. I also adore the fact that Masaccio is showing off how good his architectural design is.

Incidentally, feel free to post about art or art world debates- I am a total outsider in that world, but find it fascinating.