Fra Beato Angelico – canonized painter-monk
Fra Beato Angelico (born around 1400 – died February 18, 1455) is a famous Italian artist of the first half of the 15th century. Beato Angelico’s work includes frescoes and altar images dedicated to the brightest pages of biblical history – for this he is called the preacher of paradise. The master’s paintings are gentle and a little naive, but they are innovative for their time in volume and perspective. The biography of this Dominican monk is compared with the life of the saint – after canonization he became the heavenly patron of artists.
Fra Beato Angelico was born between 1387 and 1400 near the Tuscan city of Fiesole, where he was tonsured as an adult. There is no evidence of his childhood and youth. It is only known that at birth he received the name Guido, and his father’s name was Pietro. The young man entered the Dominican monastery in 1418, already being a skilled artist, and became known as Fra (brother) Giovanni da Fiesole. The name by which the masters are known today, he received a century later thanks to the first biographer Giorgio Vasari. This art historian created such an exalted image of a monk in his book that readers called Giovanni “the angelic brother”, and then began to call him blessed.
Fra Beato Angelico, apparently, studied under the book miniaturist, who recommended him for entry into the monastic order. After the tonsure, the artist illuminated the books. In the period from 1438 to 1445. he painted the cells, halls and the altar of the Florentine monastery of San Marco. The frescoes created then glorified the author, and soon Pope Eugene IV invited him to Rome. Fra Angelico lived in the capital for several years. He was responsible for the decoration of the surviving Vatican Church, the Basilica of St. Mary above Minerva and the Niccolin Chapel in the papal palace.
The master returned to his native Fiesole at the end of 1449 and a few months later became the abbot of the monastery. Apparently, he continued to work, but the serious works created in the last years of his life have not reached us. The artist died in 1455 in Rome, where he was summoned by the new pope. The grave has survived to this day in the very church of St. Mary above Minerva, which Fra Angelico painted. More than 500 years later, at the end of the 20th century, he was canonized. The day of death on February 18 became the day of remembrance of this saint.
Most famous paintings by Fra Beato Angelico
The works of this author are distinguished by their simplicity, lyricism and soft color. Gothic convention in them is combined with the technical achievements of the early Renaissance. There is a belief that the artist prayed before taking up the brush, and never altered the finished works, considering them pleasing to God in their original form. Here are some of Fra Beato Angelico’s most famous paintings: Madonna and Child with Saints (1430).
This fresco adorned the Dominican monastery in Fiesole. It was removed during the Napoleonic occupation of Italy, and in 1883 it was bought for the Hermitage collection, where it is kept today. “Annunciation” (1432). Fra Angelico has painted this biblical scene many times, but the version from the Prado collection is the most famous. Compositionally, the altarpiece is divided into three parts: the Garden of Eden with the expulsion of Adam and Eve is depicted on the left, the Archangel Gabriel is in the center, and the Virgin Mary is on the right.
“Altar of San Marco” (1443). This work, carried out for the Monastery of St. Mark, suffered from restoration in the 19th century. The use of caustic soda resulted in a loss of color nuances and light and shade. “Annunciation” (1450). The fresco was painted over the stairs in the Convent of San Marco. The proportions of the figures become more harmonious when viewed from below. It is interesting that the Mother of God has a shadow, which emphasizes her reality, and the angel is a being of the spiritual world and has no shadow.
Fra Angelico’s work left its mark on the development of Western European art. Domenico Veneziano and Piero della Francesca became famous followers. A hundred years later, Michelangelo Buonarroti lamented that he could not express faith with a brush like this artist, who painted with his heart. Among the later masters, Fra Angelico’s work was inspired by El Greco, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Francisco de Zurbaran and the Pre-Raphaelites.