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Fra Angelico

Angelico, Fra (frä änjĕlˈĭkō) [key], c.1400–1455, Florentine painter, b. Vicchio, Tuscany. He was variously named Guido (his baptismal name), or Guidolino, di Pietro; and Giovanni da Fiesole. After his death he was called Il Beato Fra Giovanni Angelico, although he was not officially beatified until 1982, by Pope John Paul II. Angelico's style is remarkable for its purity of line and color and its spiritual expressiveness. He took his vows c.1425 in the Dominican order. The first painting of certain date by Angelico is his 1433 Madonna of the Linen Guild (St. Mark's convent, Florence). It is supposed that his activity began at least 10 years earlier, and that he first painted small pictures, such as St. Jerome Penitent (Princeton) and miniatures. Other works suggested for this period (1423–33) are Virgin and Child Enthroned with Twelve Angels (Staedel Inst., Frankfurt); Virgin and Child with Angels (National Gall., London); Madonna of the Star and Naming of the Baptist (both: St. Mark's convent). It is thought that Angelico was first influenced by Gentile da Fabriano, and that he soon adopted Masaccio's advances in spatial conception.

Scholars have assigned to the 1430s such works as the Annunciation (Cortona); Coronation of the Virgin (Louvre); Deposition and Last Judgment (both: St. Mark's convent). In 1436, under the protection of Cosimo de' Medici, the Dominicans of Fiesole moved to St. Mark's convent in Florence. Fra Angelico supervised the fresco decoration of the building. Among the works considered to be by his hand are the Crucifixion with St. Dominic (cloisters) and the great Crucifixion (chapter house). In the convent also are frescoed Noli mi Tangere, Annunciation, Transfiguration, Mocking of Christ, Presentation in the Temple, Virgin and Child with Saints, and others. In 1445 he was summoned to Rome by Pope Eugenius IV to decorate the Cappella del Sacramento in the Vatican. In 1447 he visited Orvieto, where, assisted by his pupil Benozzo Gozzoli, he painted Christ as Judge and the Prophets in the Cappella Nuova of the cathedral. Returning to Rome, the following year he designed his greatest and most unified scenes—episodes from the lives of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence. However, the execution of this project was probably carried out mainly by pupils.

Fra Angelico treated none but religious subjects. Adapting the artistic innovations of his time, such as sculptural clarity of form and spatial depth, he interpreted them in terms of the greatest spirituality. Angelico endowed these new forms with his own incomparable sense of coloring and unity. In the United States he is represented by the Crucifixion (Fogg Mus., Cambridge); Assumption and Dormition of the Virgin (Gardner Mus., Boston); Temptation of St. Anthony Abbot (Mus. of Fine Arts, Houston, Tex.); and Crucifixion and Nativity (both: Metropolitan Mus.).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art to 1599: Biographies


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