Following a 1771 fire that destroyed everything but the transept chapels and sacristy, this Carmelite church was almost entirely reconstructed in high baroque style. To see the famous Cappella Brancacci in the right transept, you have to enter through the cloisters (doorway to the right of the church facade) and pay admission. The frescoes here were commissioned by an enemy of the Medici, Felice Brancacci, who in 1424 hired Masolino and his student Masaccio to decorate it with a cycle on the “Life of St. Peter.” Masolino probably worked out the cycle’s scheme and painted a few scenes along with his pupil before taking off for 3 years to serve as court painter in Budapest, Hungary, during which time Masaccio kept painting, quietly creating the early Renaissance’s greatest frescoes. Masaccio left for Rome in 1428, where he died at age 27. The cycle was completed between 1480 and 1485 by Filippino Lippi.
Masolino was responsible for the “St. Peter Preaching,” the upper panel to the left of the altar, and the two top scenes on the right wall, which shows his fastidiously decorative style in a long panel of “St. Peter Healing the Cripple” and “Raising Tabitha,” and his “Adam and Eve.” Contrast this first man and woman, about to take the bait offered by the snake, with the “Expulsion from the Garden”, opposite it, painted by Masaccio. Masolino’s figures are highly posed, expressionless models. Masaccio’s Adam and Eve, on the other hand, burst with intense emotion. The top scene on the left wall, the “Tribute Money”, is also by Masaccio, and it showcases another of his innovations, linear perspective. The two scenes to the right of the altar are Masaccio’s as well, with the “Baptism of the Neophytes” taking its place among his masterpieces.