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Complete Interpretation and Analysis "the Holy Trinity" by Masaccio (trinità, 1425) in Florence - Picture Description

Updated on November 28, 2012
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Picture description of “Trinity / Die Trinität” by Masaccio (Fresko 667cm x 317cm, Florence, 1425)


Picture description of “Trinity / Die Trinität” by Masaccio (Fresko 667cm x 317cm, Florence, 1425)

The huge painting is about a biblical theme. It shows an episode from the bible, to be more exact: Jesus’ execution.
There are different personalities represented. On the bottom of the painting there are two persons each in both middle plane and in the foreground. In the foreground, the person on the left-hand side wears a large red robe and the person on the right-hand side wears a large black robe. In the middle ground, it is exactly the opposite. The red persons seem to be men and those two in black are women. These persons all look at the person, Jesus, in the screen centre and have their hands in a praying gesture.

Jesus dominates the painting with his appearance, because he is nailed at the cross. He lets his body hang. Behind him, there is another person visible, who supports the cross. This person looks away from the picture, means: he looks at the audience, for example. This way, the spectator is directly included into the picture. That makes the impression, as if he would try to tell us, how he holds Jesus resp. the cross, that Jesus suffers for our sins and is going to die. He presents Jesus to the audience and this should remind the spectators, that they have to lead a correct Christian life. Also, the woman in the large black robe in the middle ground looks away from the picture. It has to be Mother Maria. With the gesture she makes with her hands, presenting Jesus, she says: “Look what you have done”. Maria, Jesus and the person behind him, God, all have a halo. The person opposite of Maria has to be a follower. The other two persons in the foreground have to be believers, since they have no halo. On the very bottom of the picture, there is a skeleton. It lies on his back and symbolises the death. It could be Adam, because in the tale of Adam and Eva, the forbidden fruit is the death. Remarkable is the pigeon that is between the heads of Jesus and God. The pigeon is the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Hence, the trinity would be completed.

The colour corresponds to the reality as regards to the pillars and walls. The four persons on the ground are dressed in read or black. Red is the colour of the sacrificial blood of Jesus and of his followers. Black symbolises the death. God has both united in his robe. Red can also mean life and since God wears both, red and black, he also represents life and death simultaneously, what should embody his omnipotence. In this case, they are no natural colours, but symbolical colours.

With regard to the colours, the whole painting has more or less the same colours, apart from the robes. No remarkable contrasts are visible.

First of all, Jesus’ position was eye-catching. He also determines the scene and the story of the painting and attracts attention most prominently. At last also because of his brighter skin colour that is a contrast to the rather darker and more saturated colours in his surroundings. What drew my attention later was the skeleton, which is quite offside of the happening. Since everything is about Jesus’ death and the whole painting is concentrated on the screen centre, the skeleton is easily forgotten or not even noticed. What was a bit irritating, was the pigeon. I saw her right at the beginning, but I thought it was the collar of God’s robe. When I was reckoning the painting I became awestruck by God’s face expression. Jesus’ look awakens melancholy and guilt-trips me and the painting creates suddenly a very serious atmosphere.

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      spk 3 years ago

      The woman to the left of the cross is Virgin Mary, and the man on the right side is St. John. Mary is presenting Jesus as the path to salvation, not necessary as "what have you done." A step below is the patrons, possibly Domenico Lenzi and his wife, who commissioned this painting. A lot of comments were personal interpretation and I would suggest you to study this painting more in depths. :)

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      Slaven Cvijetic 5 years ago from Switzerland, Zurich

      Thanks for your nice feedback!

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      kuqre 5 years ago

      very good interpretation! I enjoyed reading it and it also helped me with my own analysis!