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April 2003

Masaccio (1401-1428): St Peter Distributing Alms to the Poor (ca 1425)

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(4):316. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.4.316

FOR ALMOST 6 centuries, visitors to the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy, have been charmed by the toddler shown here clinging to his mother, his little rounded rump dangling over her arm.

The frescoes that cover the chapel walls show scenes from the life of St Peter, one of Christ's 12 disciples. In this panel, Peter has traveled to a town in Palestine to spread the gospel and to do good works following Christ's resurrection. A community of believers have sold their personal property and pooled their funds, to be distributed according to need. Peter is shown putting money into the hand of the child's indigent mother. At their feet lies a man named Ananias, who secretly withheld part of the proceeds from selling his property and who fell dead when his deception was exposed.