After Fra Angelico
Scenes from the Life of the Virgin Mary
Size with frame: 12x77 inches
Fra Angelico was one of the principal painters of the Early Renaissance in Florence. He is first recorded as a painter in 1417, and at about the same time became a novice at the Friary of San Domenico at Fiesole near Florence, where he mainly lived, eventually becoming Prior.
Masaccio’s groundbreaking use of mathematical perspective and his sculptural treatment of the human figure during the mid- and late 1420s powerfully affected Florentine art. Angelico adapted some of the older painter’s innovations to refine his own advances toward the depiction of three-dimensional forms in logically constructed spatial settings. Following the death of Masaccio in 1428 Angelico emerged as the city’s most modern and sought-after artist. As his clientele quickly expanded beyond the Dominican community over the following ten years, he completed a large number of altarpieces, private devotional works, and fresco commissions
He used new realism and impression of volume to define figures, as well as linear perspective to define space in his more contemplative art. Fra Angelico is best known for the frecoes he painted after 1436 in the Dominican friary of San Marco in Florence, whose rebuilding was supported by Cosimo de Medici.
But also in the 1430s Angelico painted one of the most inspired works of the Florentine Renaissance, The Annunciation, an altarpiece significantly superior to his two other paintings on the same subject. It shows the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve being driven out by the Angel yet also under the sway of the radiant messenger and pure maiden who are portrayed in the space of a Renaissance-style portico. The predella, or strip of scenes below the altarpiece, underpins The Annunciation and is skilfully divided into stories of the Virgin Mary, naturalistically portrayed—especially the Visitation, which has a realistic panorama. He painted this work for the monastery of San Domenico in Fiesole, near Florence.
This beautiful panel is an exact copy of Fra Angelico’s original predella, down to the scroll tooling on the gilt separator pillars and the polychrome architrave above. The Annunciation and predella now hangs in the Prado, Madrid (on right).