Fra Angelico

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Fra Angelico was a renowned and influential Italian painter, known for his iconic and unique blend of intermingling the Renaissance’s Greek and Roman style with the religious approach of the Middle Ages. His work dealt with concepts of light, space and mass.

Very little has been recorded about the early life of Fra Angelico, historians have reported that he was born as Guido di Pietro in 1400. In 1418, Angelico along with Benedetto, his brother, took his vows at the Order of Dominican Preachers in Fiesole, near Florence, and became monks. Angelico was given the religious name of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole.

In the 1420s, Angelico and his brother opened a painter’s workshop in Fiesole, they also provided a room for copying documents. Fra Angelico created some of his earliest and most iconic works at the monastery of San Domenico, Fiesole. The Annunciation of 1430 and the Linaiuoli Altarpiece are examples of the excellence of his art. The figures of saint and angels molded into his works would stand out from the picture and entice the viewers with their fineness and meticulous attention to each detail. Fra Angelico and his workshop gained immense popularity and influential patrons during the 1430s, and Angelico was commissioned for making numerous spacious altar-pieces.

In 1438, Fra Angelico began his experimentation with frescoes, which is basically painting with water-based colours on moist plasters. During the same time, he became quite occupied with creating altar-pieces for the Dominican monastery of San Marco, Florence. Angelico was later commissioned for the decoration of the newly renovated church, his frescoes, depicting Dominican saints meditating, the life of Christ and other sacred events, embellished the corridors, rooms and chapter house of the new quarters.

The Deposition altarpiece, a panel painting for the church of Sta Trinita, commissioned by the Strozzi family was indeed Angelico’s magnum opus. With it exuberantly rich colors and magnificent figures, the painting established her as a pioneering and influential follower of the Renaissance approach and methods. The altarpiece was designed with a wide and lush view of the Tuscan landscape that provided a backdrop to Calvary. The work exuded a religious relevance by outlining a clear division between religious and nonreligious people.

Fra Angelico is reported to have spent the final years of his life mostly in Rome, and later, he spent three years in Florence. He was second in command at the monastery of San Domenico, Fiesole. His surviving works include numerous frescoes that depict scenes from the lives of Saints Stephen and Lawrence and can be found in the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V, Vatican, Rome.

The dramatic and magnificent figures painted by Angelico have set the basis for introducing Florentine fresco painting in the fourteenth and early fifteenth century. Fra Angelico ranks among the prominent and influential Renaissance artists that lived in Florence.

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