Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this was even an experience I was capable of ever having. But of course, as always, some background first.
One of my favorite interpretations of Adam and Eve is housed in the Brancacci Chapel, here in good ol’ Florence Italy. This chapel houses many frescoes, but there are two in particular that spark my interest. The first is The Temptation of Adam and Eve, painted by Masolino. The second, and my favorite, is The Expulsion of Adam and Eve, painted by Masaccio. When these were painted, linear perspective was just popping around, and Masaccio had something else to bring to the table. The thing that strikes me the most about this work is the raw emotion as Adam and Eve are swept out of paradise. Eve is wailing as she mourns this loss, and covering herself as she discovers her own modesty. Her face is almost paranormal; it’s definitely one of the most moving facial expressions I’ve personally seen. Adam’s body is tense as he cries, and you can see each of his muscles contracting separately. Not only is this emotion revolutionary, but so are some of the more technical aspects of the painting.
Modern-day us may see these aspects as obvious—but at the time? Masaccio was bringing some real revolution to the fresco game. On the left, an arch is placed using mathematical linear perspective. We can tell its three dimensional! It fades back into the landscape which brings around my next point! There is a landscape! If you look back at pieces before, there is little attempt at bringing a realistic landscape to the scene.
Last but not least… Shadows! Shadows directly corresponding to a light source were the new game at this time! So much movement towards three-dimensionality happened in such a short time, and it really created a new level of fresco and religious painting. It allowed people to interact even further with the stories that they heard.
Now onto my bragging rights. Sorry, I had to. Especially sorry to all my art history friends that will be very… very jealous.
Currently, the Brancacci Chapel is under restoration. Usually, you would only be able to see these frescoes from the ground; but because of this restoration, there was scaffolding covering all the paintings. At first, I thought this was a major bummer because I thought I wouldn’t be able to see them at all. That is until my teacher broke some totally tubular news. She had been on the phone with the chapel for two days, and somehow managed to get our entire class signed up for some slots to go up into the scaffolding. The next thing I knew I was face to face with Adam and Eve, as they got kicked out of Eden. We only had about 30 minutes, and we had to be completely silent the entire time. The only sound for that entire half hour was camera shutters (mostly mine), and quiet gasps from me and my classmates. This experience is truly, truly once in a lifetime. Only a handful of people will ever be able to say they ever did it. Once that scaffolding is gone, so is the experience. As much as I wish I could have dragged everyone I know and love up there with me, the best I can do is photos. So, in an attempt to connect across the ocean, here are some of my favorites.