Reason for Choosing the Specific Work of Art
I chose this work of art because the author, Fra Angelico, contributed immensely in the development and advancement of painting in Europe during the renaissance period, yet he is not fully appreciated for the critical role he played. Fra Angelico is credited with introducing the method of varying light and shadows to create unique visual effects (The MET, 2006). As such, his work is significant in the history of art.
Biography of the Artist
Fra Angelico was born in 1395 in an Italian town, Vicchio, and died in 1455 (The MET, 2006). He was among the greatest painters of his times. He born Guido di Pietro, but adopted Fra Angelico later. He began his painting career in his late teens in 1417. Between 1420 and 1422, he was a member of Dominican friar, residing in the Church of San Domenico, Fiesole town (The MET, 2006). As a member of the priory at San Domenico, he took the name Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. One of the major influencers in his work was Giovanni Dominici, an elite military leader at the time (Salmi, n.d). Giovanni Dominici emphasized on the need to stick to tradition, which reflects why much of Fra Angelico’s work had a significant classical influence. Saint Antoninus Pierozzi, who rose in ranks to become Archbishop at Florence in 1523, also influenced his work significantly. Fra Angelico and St. Antoninus belonged to the same friar.
Fra Angelico received training from another great artist of the time, Lorenzo Monaco. Lorenzo Monaco was born in 1370 and died in 1425. Monaco was a monk, painter, and a revered manuscript illuminator. He had a workshop where aspiring artists such as Fra Angelico could train. Indeed, some of Fra Angelico’s unfinished paintings during his apprentice with Lorenzo Monaco are available. Lorenzo Monaco’s style adopted an aesthetic feel. Nevertheless, Monaco did not have a significant influence in Fra Angelico’s style as earlier thought (National Gallery of Art, 2018). Other artists who likely influenced Fra Angelico’s style are Gentile da Fabriano, Masolino, and Ghiberti (NGA, 2018). Fra Angelico’s works were exhibited in churches.
Context of the Artwork
Fra Angelico’s artwork depicts the Virgin holding a child and with saints and angels on the sides. Much of his artwork was dedicated to Dominican religious institutions. The painting was used to advance the interests of the church, such as providing meaningful teachings to the congregation. This painting was displayed in the Church of San Domenico (The MET, 2006). The church would pay for the painting. The making of the artwork was in the early renaissance period. During this period, classical medieval styles such as the byzantine style heavily influence artwork. It is worth noting that during the classical medieval period, art had a significant Christian influence – much of the art reflected the thinking of religions leaders (Emeritus, Preble, & Frank, 2013). Fra Angelico’s artwork has a strong Christian influence as it was meant for the church.
The renaissance represents a period where there was a departure in thought from the Middle Ages. The religious dogma that pervaded the Middle Ages was increasingly being challenged by the emergence of new knowledge and ways of interpreting things. Nevertheless, the people did not abandon the religious teachings entirely, but only adopting new ways of thinking free from religious influence. During the renaissance, the Italians developed renewed interest in art as well as in ideas perpetuated by classical Greeks and Romans (Emeritus, Preble, & Frank, 2013). The Greco-Roman influence on artwork was strongest in the south, which could explain why Fra Angelico did religions paintings. Art during the Middle Ages and early renaissance was nature-centered in line with Christian doctrines. This may explain why Fra Angelico’s painting depicts beautiful flowers along the frame. Art during the renaissance also became more realistic and humanistic in nature.
The artwork is two sided. The front has the virgin holding the child, while at the back was the painting of Christ. In 1869, the two paintings were displayed separately at Baron Triqueti collection. J.A. Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle saw the two pieces at this collection (Kanter et al., 2005). From then, the two pieces were displayed at Edouard Anynard collection. From 1914, the main piece of painting came to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The minor piece (painting of Christ) came latter in 1985 (Kanter et al., 2005).
Analysis of the Work
Fra Angelico’s artwork depicts Virgin Mary, seated on a throne. In the background, there are angels. Besides the virgin, there are Saints Peter, Paul, and George (Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 2018). The donor is kneeling. The actual function or ceremony depicted in the painting remains unknown (Kanter et al., 2005). Fra Angelico uses the tempera on panel technique. The tempera on panel technique utilizes a water-based and fast-drying painting medium with egg yolk acting as the binder (Emeritus, Preble, & Frank, 2013). Tempera was the painting medium used in the Middle Ages to the early renaissance period. Oil paints began gaining prominence during the renaissance period. Oil paints replaced tempera paintings, the former allowing artists to display vivid colors and different shades and hues on their artworks.
The painting depicts Virgin Mary at the middle holding a child and at the center. There is use of linear perspective in a bid to depict the images in a three-dimensional space. The figures have modest postures, each akin to the role it plays. For instance, the donor seems to humble himself before Virgin Mary. A decorative background obscures the full realism of the three-dimensional space that one may experience with modern art.
Emeritus, D. P., Preble, S., & Frank, P. L. (2013). Artforms: an introduction to the visual arts (11th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
Kanter, L. B., Palladino, P., Angelico, ., & Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2005). Fra Angelico. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston. (2018). Virgin and child enthroned with Saints Peter, Paul and George (?), four Angels, and a Donor. Retrieved from http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/virgin-and-child-enthroned-with-saints-peter-paul- and-george-four-angels-and-a-donor-31510
National Gallery of Art (NGA). (2018). Fra Angelico. Retrieved from https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.99.html
Salmi, M. (n.d). Fra Angelico: Italian Painter. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fra-Angelico
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art (The MET). (2006). Fra Angelico (ca. 1395- 1455). Retrieved from https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/fang/hd_fang.htm