The Brancacci Chapel houses one of the most outstanding pictorial cycles of the first half of the Italian Renaissance; This spectacular set of frescoes could be equal to the artistic quality that Michelangelo developed in the Sistine Chapel or later the genius of the baroque Caravaggio in the Cerasi Chapel, in all these cases we find ourselves before pictorial cycles that condense some of the most important works of the history of art, recognized spaces in which art acquires a new dimension, in this sense it seems logical to include within these great artistic cycles one of the most ambitious decorations of religious spaces, the Brancacci Chapel.
If we had to look for the most immediate precedent of this magnificent construction we could go back to the Scrovegni Chapel where Giotto painted his spectacular frescoes, however, and although the quality of both sets is unmatched, the Brancacci Chapel represents the zenith of the first rebirth and the expression of the artistic ideal of three great painters of the moment. Because of this, the famous chapel is known as The Sistine Chapel of the First Renaissance.
The church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence was a primitive construction built in the 13th century and occupied by a community of Carmelite monks. The history of the church was eventful and it seems that, when in 1386 Pietro Brancacci orderedthe construction of a new church, hardly anything remained of the old Carmelite temple. Brancacci's idea was to build a lavish funerary chapel that he could not see completely finished and upon his death it was Felice Brancacci who took charge of the construction and decoration of this ambitious project. Following Pietro's testamentary dispositions, in 1424 Felice commissioned Masolino da Panicale to decorate the Chapel; Working together with Masolino at that time was a very young Masaccio who was barely twenty-one years old.
Both authors proposed the decoration of the chapel in a unitary way, developing the same iconographic program –based on the Acts of the Apostles and the Golden Legend- and elaborating the frescoes based on two fundamental premises: a harmonic chromatic range that would provide unity to the whole and the use of the same point of view for the development of all the scenes, that is, the vision of the spectator located in the center of the chapel. Regarding the iconographic program, the artists opted for a traditional theme, the salvation of man thanks to Jesus Christ, but with a new approach through the life of Saint Peter. In reality, all the frescoes that took place on the walls of the chapel recounted the life of Saint Peter with the exception of Adam and Eve made by Masolino and the Expulsion from Paradise by Masaccio.
The set of frescoes was arranged in two horizontal registers for the walls but in the original scheme – today lost due to thenumerous interventions in the chapel - the vault and the lunettes had also been decorated.
In 1425 Masolino abandoned the project and only three years later Masaccio died, the ambitious project had to be finished by Filippo Lippi who tried to maintain the stylistic unity of the whole.