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Fra Angelico

Last night, it occurred to me that today I would show you works by Fra Angelico on the theme of the Annunciation , the Christian Feast Day celebrated at about the same time as April Fools’ Day. 

However, surfing the internet, I found a site dedicated to Great Works of art and in particular Fra Angelico’s Annunciations.  So I decided that my best option was to tell about the existence of Michael Glover‘s site.[i]

The Annunciation

Fra Angelico: The Annunciation

In his description of the fresco to the left, Michael Glover writes that the Annunciation, “though central to the Christian story, appears in only one of the Gospels, St Luke’s.”

To the right, we see “The Annunciation Angel.”  I found this second painting on a site named Artful Home (www.artfulhome.com).[ii]  Michael Custode, the author, writes that “as in the ‘Descent,’ [another painting by Fra Angelico] in the “Annunciation, painted in 1438, [Fra Angelico] divides the painting into thirds. The first third is the left garden representing the virginity of Mary. The second third, is the portico the angel Gabriel has just entered and the last one-third, Mary sits and awaits news about her destiny from the angel Gabriel.”

In other words, it is a triptych.

Fra Angelico: biographical information

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – February 18, 1455) was born Guido di Pietro, in Tuscany.  In his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and ArchitectsGiorgio Vasari wrote that

 it is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.

Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar called, in Italy, “il Beato Angelico,” the Blessed Angelico.  He was beatified paintings in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Little is known about the details of his life but, according to Britannica, “he appeared in a document of 1417 as a lay painter” and “between the years 1420 and 1422, he became a Dominican friar and resided in the priory of San Domenico at Fiesole, there taking the name of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole.”[iii]

According, once again, to Vasari, quoted in Britannica, “Fra Angelico was trained by the greatest painter and miniaturist of the Gothic tradition, Lorenzo Monaco.”  It is therefore rather surprising that he became a painter of frescoes, mural paintings.

I would gather from Wikipedia that, listed below, arehis assignments, and his assignments were his life.[iv]

  • From 1408 to 1418, Fra Angelico was at the Dominican friary of Cortona.
  • Between 1418 and 1436, he was at the convent of Fiesole where he produced an Altarpiece for the Convent of Fiesole.  This Altarpiece is now housed at the National Gallery, in London, England.
  • In c. 1436, he was housed in the friary of San Marco, which he decorated.
  • As of 1445, he was at the Vatican where Pope Eugenius IV assigned to him decoration of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.
  • In Rome, Pope Nicholas V (or Eugenius IV) offered him the Archbishopric of Florence, which he refused.
  • In 1447, Fra Angelico was in Orvieto executing works for the Cathedral.
  • From 1447 to 1449, he was back at the Vatican, designing the frescoes for the Niccoline Chapel for Nicholas V.
  • From 1449 until 1452, Fra Angelico was back at his old convent of Fiesole, where he was the Prior
  • He died in 1455, while staying at a Dominican Convent in Rome, where he was probably working on the decoration of Pope Nicholas’ Chapel.

It seems that what we need remember about Fra Angelico is that,

  • although he was a classical artist, he did not subscribe to Renaissance humanism, a scrutiny of man, as in man and woman,
  • that he worked for the Church as an artist and was extremely humble,
  • that, although he painted large frescoes, his frescoes reflect his training as a miniaturist : beauty is in the detail,
  • that he had mastered perspective, which gives depth to a painting or drawing,
  • and that he is a revered Christian saint.

I will now close so I can go and look at that Marian antiphon that corresponds to the Annunciation and discuss a little further Marian hymnology.

— The Annunciation

01 ニ短調の作品集 プレリュード

D’Anglebert: Prélude en ré mineur (D Minor), Hank Knox (harpsichord)
(click on the title to hear the music) 


[i] Michael Glover: Annunciation (1435-45), Fra Angelico, published on July 16, 2010 (please click on Michael Glover or on the following URL: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-annunciation-143845-fra-angelico-2027376.html

[ii] Michael Custode: Artful Home                                                     http://www.arthistory-famousartists-paintings.com/FraAngelico.html

[iii] Mario Salmi, “Fra Angelico.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/24542/Fra-Angelico>.

[iv] “Fra Angelico.” Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fra_Angelico>.