The more spectacular creative adventurers among the vast throngs of human history are recognised with a single name. Masaccio by Spike is a sumptious presentation of the work of two such explorers. Masaccio was a fresco painter in 15th century Florence whose Bible illustrations have been cherished and protected to this day. Spike is an art historian whose erudition is made readable by his genuine admiration of and empathy for the artist Masaccio.
For example, the scholar wading through Spike's preface is rewarded by archipelagos like the following heartwarming conclusion: "Investigations into subject matter can only proceed deeper and deeper into the hidden recesses of the human heart and mind. For this reason, we prefer to study the works of geniuses." (italics added) If Masaccio were alive and working today, certainly he would derive quite a bit of enjoyment from oblique compliments like that! And even Leonardo would have to laugh when he encountered the following notion from the preface: "The stylistic development between the earliest and the latest works (a span of only seven and a half years) is unprecedented and astonishing. Compared to Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci was a stick-in-the-mud." (italics added)
The beauty of this literary paen to an artist centuries in his grave reflects the incredible power of Masaccio's few paintings to distinguish themselves above excellence. Luxurious color photographs allow lavish attention to details of the frescoes, most notably at the Brancacci Chapel. Black and white photographs in the catalog of Masaccio' known works accompany the provenances and physical details. A section of Comparative Illustrations adds bonus value to this outstanding reference. Page after page of wonderfully intriguing paintings and fragments by contemporaries of Masaccio give the reader a deeper understanding. Then, surprisingly, the book ends with a bibliography and index, etc.
Dr John T Spike is author of numerous volumes like this one, and was Director of the 1999 Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte Contemporanea in Florence, Italy. His activities also include contemporary art criticism.