Bad Boys – Tribute Money

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Bad Boys
The Men Who Saw Art and Chose To Change It
Curated by Gabrielle Fenaroli

Massacio, Tribute Money, 1420

Art changes. This statement we know as fact. Changes what though? When does it change? How does it change? And who is brave enough to change it? I want to explore the idea behind a movement in art, the propelling force that makes people want to change the status quo. So here we are with an opportunity to no longer be a bystander, but to no delve into certain facets of art and explore the men who changed the face of art forever.

A picture holds a thousand words. Cliché? Yes. True? You betcha. When does this phenomenon of narrative in painting begin, though? Much of the early painting did not tell a story, rather captured a moment in time. Massacio doesn’t want to leave it up to the viewer to create his or her own idea of what is going on, he has decided to let the whole scene unfold in front of them.

Massacio knows the people he wants this painting to touch can’t read a Bible. He's opposed to having written word dictated to them and wants to give them a chance to interpret the story through sight. Massacio’s Tribute Money, painted in 1420, depicts a scene from the book of Matthew. In the story Jesus tells Peter to go to the sea to catch a fish, and inside that fish’s mouth will be coins. Even though Jesus is exempt from paying a Temple Tax because it is his father’s temple, he still choses to show the disciples that material goods on Earth mean nothing to those in Heaven.

Aside from the new form of narrative that the piece takes on, it also employs a change stylistically. Masaccio toys with the idea of single-point perspective. The head of Christ becomes the vanishing point, which immediately draws the viewer to his face. It widely believed to be the first painting, since Rome fell in 476 A.D, to use single point linear perspective. He takes the viewer on a journey and delivers them to Christ, something never done in art before.

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