Masaccio is widely regarded as the first Renaissance painter of the Italian Quattrocento, and despite the brevity of his career, had the most profound influence on his successors. Florentine painting greatly increased in range and richness after Masaccio's death, and fifteenth-century artists adopted and built on the style and techniques that he had introduced to Italian painting, most notably the drive towards naturalism, and the use of linear perspective, sfumato, and chiaroscuro. Artists also began to focus even more on proportional and anatomically accurate representations of the human body and naturalistic landscapes.
Some of the most famous Florentine Quattrocento painters of the post-Masaccio period were Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), Piero della Francesca (1415-1492), and Filippo Lippi (1406-1469). These painters dedicated themselves to the study of light and shadow and perspective as their paramount concern. Paolo Uccello was said to be so obsessed with trying to achieve the appearance of perspective by grasping the exact vanishing point that it disturbed his sleep. Piero della Francesca studied light and linear perspective from a scientific point of view and wrote treatises about his findings.
Paolo Uccello's paintings emphasized color and pageantry rather than strictly classical realism, and he used perspective to convey a feeling of depth rather than to narrate different or succeeding stories as his contemporaries did. He is best known for his three egg tempera on wood paintings representing the Battle of San Romano, which use broken weapons on the ground and fields on the distant hills to give an impression of perspective (Figure 2). Paolo Uccello also used light and contrast for dramatic effect in some of his almost monochrome frescoes, enlivening terra verde or "green earth" compositions with touches of bright vermilion. The best known is his equestrian portrait of John Hawkwood in the Florence Cathedral, which gives the impression of being lit by natural light as if the light source was an actual window in the cathedral.
Piero della Francesca is famous for his fresco paintings including the cycle of frescoes depicting the Legend of the True Cross, and his painting is characterized by its serene humanism and its use of geometric forms in addition to his close attention to perspective. His Flagellation of Christ demonstrate his mastery over linear perspective and his knowledge of how light is proportionally disseminated from its point of origin. There are two light sources in the painting, one outside the building and the other from outside. While the light source inside the building is invisible, its position can be calculated with mathematical certainty from the rest of the composition, demonstrating his intimate understanding of the science of light (Figure 1).