Fra Angelico is Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. He was born supposedly between 1395 and 1400 years in Vicchio nell Mugello in a small fortified town near Florence. This painter had three names. The first, which he received at birth – Guido di Pietro, the second is Giovanni da Fiesole – took on joining the Order of the Dominicans. And the third, with which the artist became known to the whole world. Giorgio Vasari, an Italian painter, architect and writer, author of the famous “Biographies”, called the artist “Angelic” (Italian Angelico); thanks to him the artist became known under the name of Fra (brother, monk).
Nothing is known about his family. Somewhere between 1419 and 1422 he entered the monastery of the Dominican Order, in Fiesole. His artistic activity began with illustrations of religious books. So, for example, at this time he was engaged in painting altars in the monastery of San Domenico in Fiesole. But, unfortunately, many of the artist’s early frescoes have not survived to this day.
From 1436-39 in San Marco (Florence), when several monks from Fiesole moved to Florence to paint the rebuilt Michelozzo (Italian architect and sculptor) monastery. In 1445, Pope Eugene IV summoned Angelico to Rome to paint the frescoes of the now defunct Church of Baptism in the Vatican.
In 1447, with his student Benozzo Gozzoli Fra Angelico painted the frescoes of the church in Orvieto, and in 1447-1450 – the walls of the chapel of Nikcolina in the palace of the popes in the Vatican.
After many years of absence and work in the Vatican, Fra Beato returned to Florence in 1449 and a year later became the abbot of the Dominican monastery in the city where he received the monastic order in Fiesole.
In 1450, Fra Angelolo returns to Fiesole, where the Dominican brothers elect him as abbot of the monastery of San Domenico. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria Sopra-Minerva, where his grave exists until now. It is said that the Latin text of the epitaph on his grave was compiled by Pope Nicholas V.
Key Ideas in painting
Fra Angelico was one of the first to turn to the use of a new type of altar image, which became very popular in the Renaissance – the so-called Sacra Conversazione. The first example of such iconography is found precisely in Fra Angelico, this is Annalen’s Altar.
The artist did not like to refer to subjects in which the sinful inclinations peculiar to people were manifested, most often in his works light, sublime themes, imbued with light naive lyricism, such as images of saints and angels, appear.
It was also said that Fra Angelico painted pictures, kneeling, that he never corrected or altered his works, leaving them as they turned out the first time, believing that it was in this form that they most pleased the Lord.
In fact, all the work of Fra Angelico is permeated with a deep faith in God. For this very reason, Vasari talks about the artist as a kind and simple man, detached from all worldly affairs and dedicated his entire life to serving God. For the work of Fra Angelico is characterized by the simplicity of color solutions bordering on naivete, the soft lyricism typical of many masters of quattrocento, the widespread use of gold.
His art is a synthesis of Gothic traditions and new, truly Renaissance finds, and at the same time it retains its spontaneity and poetry.
Famous paintings made by Fra Angelico
1432-35, Tempera, wood, 105 x 210 cm, The Museum of San Marco, Florence
The Last Judgment from the San Marco Museum, written around 1430 served as the upper part of the chair intended for the priest during the great mass. This explains its unusual shape.
The prospect of two rows of empty graves leaving for the dark sky creates a dramatic effect of space and a premonition. In the center, surrounded by angels, stands Christ in the role of judge, the Holy Virgin and St. John on either side of him, and beneath them are two crowds – the blessed and the damned. The angels gathered to take the souls of the blessed to heaven.
1420 – 1423, Tempura on wood, 63.8 x 48.3 cm, Museum of San Marco, Florence
Crucifixion is one of the earliest works of Fra Angelico, which demonstrates the tragedy of the Crucifixion. This fresco shows the cruelty of the execution with the help of an image of a large amount of blood. The skull acts as a reminder of the terrible death of Christ, and the place of his death, Golgotha.
Incidentally, this is one of Fra’s well-known works, which has an inscription and which can be interpreted as a signature. Running on the bridle the horses in the far right corner are the gilded letters Fr t Ihone or Fra Giovanni.
1425 – 1426, Tempera on panel, 190.3 x 191.5 cm, Museum of San Marco, Florence.
The fresco was painted by Fra Angelico in 1450 after his return from Rome, that is, a few years after the remaining frescoes of San Marco in Florence. The central part of the fresco depicts the actual scene of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel, and the lower contains five small accompanying plots from her life. The artist conveys the scene of the Annunciation as an acute spiritual experience.
The artist often resorts to different symbols. So, if you look closely, then on the fresco, on the furthest wall you can see a detail-a barred window that reminds one of St. Antonin’s well-known artist: “A mortal sin comes through a window, if it is not locked, as it should be.” Fra Angelico made the window the center of convergence of perspective lines, thus giving him a large – symbolic – meaning.
Virgin and Child Enthroned with Twelve Angels
1430, Tempera, a tree, 37 x 28 cm, Städel, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
The image of the Madonna and the Child is a topic to which Angelico addressed a large number of times. In the picture, the Mother of God with the Child is shown sitting on a throne surrounded by twelve angels. In this work, the throne occupies most of the surface of the picture and produces a large spatial effect. The background of the picture is made gold in the traditions of its time.
There is a version that this panel may have been the center of a small triptych written for a private person. In 1831 it was acquired by Frankfurt Gallery from F. Bennuchi.
Noli Me Tangere (“Do not touch me!”)
1440-1442, fresco, wall, 180 x 146 cm, Basilica di San Marco, Florence, Italy
Noli Me Tangere is one of the most famous frescoes of the cycle, is the fresco “Noli me tangere” (which means «Do not touch me”). On the order of his brother Dominica, Fra Angelico made a series of frescoes for the corridors of the building of the Monastery of San Marco in Florence. In the first cell he wrote a scene from the Gospel of St. John, describing the meeting of Mary Magdalene with Christ before the open grave. At first Mary accepted Jesus as a gardener, but later she recognized the Risen One in him. When she wanted to touch him, he answered her with the words “ Noli Me Tangere ” (“Do not touch me “).