You enter the Brancacci Chapel through an exquisite cloister, go up a flight of stairs, and find yourself face to face with Masaccio's masterpieces, Scenes from the Life of Saint Peter, and the Original Sin. And masterpieces they are.
Beginning on the right hand side, there is the Temptation of Eve by Masolino (compare the figures and their expressions with those of Masaccio's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, to the left). The large upper right panel shows Saint Peter healing a cripple, by Masolino, though the cripple may be Masaccio's; the background, an accurate rendition of Florence, is almost certainly Masaccio.
The panel below it, the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, is by Filippino Lippi; the first person in profile on the left side of the fresco is Botticelli, Filippino's teacher.
The panels on the back wall, which were separated by the altar that is presently in the centre of the chapel (it was moved during the restoration) show Saint Peter preaching (upper left), by Masolino, and Peter baptizing converts, Peter berating Ananias for withholding personal property when the community was giving alms (the man falls dead at his feet), and Peter's shadow healing the sick, all by Masaccio; again, his figures are far more vigorous and lifelike than Masolino's.
The upper left hand panel is Masaccio's masterful rendition of Jesus' command, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's (Mat. 22.21), with Jesus indicating the lake, and Peter plucking the coin from the fish's mouth and giving it to the tax collector.
According to Vasari, the young man on the extreme right of the central group of figures is Masaccio's self-portrait. The panel below, Saint Peter Enthroned, and Saint Peter reviving Theophile, Prince of Antioch, was Masaccio's last; and was finished by Filippino Lippi.
The rightmost of the three people kneeling before Saint Peter Enthroned is said to be Brunelleschi. Filippino completed the decorative elements of the scene, and did the revived prince and the people to the right of him.
The two panels below the Temptation and Expulsion are Filippino's: Peter visited by Paul while in jail, supposedly based on Masaccio's drawing, and the Angel freeing Peter.
For any information:
Cappella Brancacci di Santa Maria del Carmine
Piazza del Carmine (055 2768224).
Open 10am-5pm, holidays and Sun 1-5pm.
Admission: 6 euro.