The Brancacci Chapel is attached to the church of Santa Maria del Carmine.
The cycle based on the life and works of St Peter was initially begun in 1425 by Masaccio – or “messy Tom” as his nickname implies, who stares out in a somewhat accusatory way from the corner of his painting of St. Peter Raising the Son of Theophilus and St. Peter Enthroned as First Bishop of Antioch, where he is shown with Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti.
Unfortunately, Masaccio died of the plague in Rome in 1428, before the work was completed, but his influence though his solid three dimensional figure painting and his revolutionary use of both chiaroscuro and linear perspective made a great impact on future artists of the Renaissance. ( check out how all points converge on Christ’s head!)
Slightly earlier, in 1425, another part of the cycle was begun by another “Tom” Maso – called Masolino , meaning little delicate Tom – a very much more finicky painter to judge from his style as well as his nickname.
In 1427 Masolino accepted a commission in Hungary and disappeared off the scene.
So finally, between 1481 and 1485, Fillipino Lippi, the famous son of infamous Carmine Friar Filippo Lippi,, came to the church where his father had probably helped Masaccio grind pigment, with a brief to finally complete the cycle – and he too painted his self-portrait for posterity – as one of the onlookers in the fresco of St Peter’s crucifixion.
Lippi finished the Raising of the son of Theophilus and St Peter enthroned which Masaccio had begun, and painted St Peter in prison visited by St Paul on the adjacent pilaster.
On the opposite wall he frescoed the Disputation of St Peter and St Paul with Simon Magus, and the Crucifixion of St Peter, and on the pilaster St Peter escaping from prison with the aid of an angel.
Construction of the Brancacci family chapel was commissioned by tax collector Pietro Brancacci and begun in 1386, but was finally paid for by his nephew Felice Brancacci. However between 1435 and 1458, the patron fell into political disgrace and the part of Masaccio’s fresco of the Raising of the Son of Theophilus and St. Peter Enthroned, showing portraits of the Brancacci patrons were taken off the wall completely – if you look carefully you can see those painted in a different style and even remains of where the originals were scratched off. You can also see see where new faces were painted in – some of them without supporting bodies or feet (have a little count in the left corner!)
The images of the faces of the Brancacci family were not the only ones mutilated in this chapel- in c1490 it was also the site of an assault on Michelangelo by rival sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, who resented Michelangelo’s critical remarks about his draughtsmanship and described his attack in which“ I hit Michelangelo’s nose, so I felt the nose and soft bones crushed under my fist like a smash of dry wafers – So he’ll get a lifetime mark of me. “
Michelangelo stayed on to create many masterworks, including the sculpture which would become the “symbol” of the Republic of Florence.