The patron of the pictorial decoration was Felice Brancacci, descendant of Pietro, who had served as the Florentine ambassador to Cairo until 1423. Upon his return to Florence, he hired Masolino da Panicale to paint his chapel. Masolino's associate, 21 year old Masaccio, 18 years younger than Masolino, assisted, but during painting Masolino left to Hungary, where he was painter to the king, and the commission was given to Masaccio. By the time Masolino returned he was learning from his talented former student. However, Masaccio was called to Rome before he could finish the chapel, and died in Rome at the age of 27. Portions of the chapel were completed later by Filippino Lippi. Unfortunately during the Baroque period some of the paintings were seen as unfashionable and a tomb was placed in front of them.
Masaccio's application of scientific perspective, unified lighting, use of chiaroscuro and skill in rendering the figures naturalistically established new traditions in Renaissance Florence that some scholars credit with helping to found the new Renaissance style.
The young Michelangelo was one of the many artists who received his artistic training by copying Masaccio's work in the chapel. The chapel was also the site of an assault on Michelangelo by rival sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, who resented Michelangelo's critical remarks about his draughtsmanship. He punched the artist so severely that he "crushed his nose like a biscuit" (according to Benvenuto Cellini), which deformed Michelangelo's face into that of a boxer's.
The first restoration of the chapel frescoes was in 1481-1482, by Filippino Lippi, who was also responsible for completing the cycle. Due to the lamps used for lighting the dark chapel, the frescoes were relatively quickly coated in dust and dirt from the smoke. Another restoration was conducted at the end of the 16th century. Around 1670, sculptures were added, and the fresco-secco additions were made to the frescoes, to hide the various cases of nudity. Late 20th century restoration removed the overpainting and collected dust and dirt. Some critics, including professor and art historian James H. Beck, have criticised these efforts, while others, including professors, historians and restorers, have praised the work done on the chapel.".