Description of the picture:
Magic with a statier – Masaccio. Around 1425-1428. Fresco.
This breathtakingly expressive and lively in terms of plot and execution technique fresco amazes with the time of its own creation. For the era of the early Renaissance, she obviously overtook her time. Her contemporaries are images in a static, outdated Gothic tradition, with its flat, inanimate bodies and two-dimensional inexpressive geometry of the place.
On the same fresco, everything is completely different. The first thing that immediately turns out to be visible to the viewer is an architectural structure built according to the laws of perspective on the side of the picture. Ideal verticals and a clear image of the smallest details send us to much later centuries in art, somewhat reminiscent of the works of cubists or supporters of geometric abstraction. Probably, earlier than few religious images could boast of such clear architectural forms. It seems that this building is the same equal participant in the events as human figures.
The traditional biblical plot gave the artist the opportunity to fully demonstrate his talent as a painter and colorist. There are many colors in this mural, it is bright and saturated, with a predominance of shades of red. Nevertheless, there is no sensation of vulgar variegation and excessive color intensity. Red tones are balanced by beige and gray mountains in the background, also a grayish stone of the architectural fragment. This almost neutral background balances the riot of colors in the picture.
Of particular interest is the artist’s interpretation of the biblical plot. The fact is that on one fresco three consecutive events are recorded as simultaneously occurring. The left edge of the picture sends us to the moment when, at the direction of Jesus Christ, Saint Peter sets off to fish with a coin in his stomach, since Christ and his companions are not allowed into the temple of Jerusalem – there is a statir (antique coin) at the entrance (lodge). In the center – the main episode of the gospel text – Christ talks with the minister of the temple, demanding that he pay a tribute. On the right is the moment of direct transfer of the coin. According to the parable, St. Peter did indeed find the desired statir in the first fish, as Christ said.
An attentive viewer will see a clear anachronism, which, however, has always been characteristic of religious painting using biblical subjects. If the main characters – Christ and his apostles – are dressed in clothes that are quite compatible with the biblical story, because cloaks and loose robes were worn in antiquity, the temple minister clearly dressed in modern artist’s clothes – a velvet short camisole with lush folds and very narrow, reminiscent of tights, trousers.
And another attractive and unusual moment. On the fresco some key figures are repeated a couple of times. So, for example, Jesus Christ himself is depicted in the center of the composition only once, like most apostles. But the temple minister in the clothes of the Renaissance is written twice – in the center and on the right. St. Peter was immediately awarded three “references” to the fresco – in a fragment of fishing on the left, in the center when talking about the tax and on the right at the time of payment to the minister of the church.
The unique compositional and graphic features of this mural make it a wonderful monument of its era, reflecting the highest skill and talent of the artist."