When I first encountered the frescoes depicting the life of Saint Peter by Masaccio and Masolino in the Brancacci Chapel, still in their grimy state in the dank, dimly lit church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, they were not on any tourist’s must-see list. I sat spellbound for about an hour, during which time I encountered no other living soul. Since then—especially after the late 1980s, when the chapel was reopened to the public with cleaned paintings and modern (over)lighting—their fame has renewed, which has lured crowds and inspired further scholarship.
Sara Nair James
Sara Nair James is professor of art history at Mary Baldwin College, where she specializes in Italian Renaissance art history, religious iconography, and Renaissance studies. She has authored two books: Signorelli and Fra Angelico: Liturgy, Poetry, and a Vision of the End Time (Ashgate, 2002) and Art in England from the Saxons through the Tudors: 600–1603, currently in press at Oxbow Publishing.