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Fra Angelico

- February 18, 1455


Guido di Pietro, or Fra Angelico as known after his death, was born around 1395 in Vicchio di Mugello of Florence, Italy. Giorgio Vassari, the influential writer of Lives of the Artists (1550) proposed 1387 as Angelico’s birth date, but many art historians think it was more likely around 1395. Scholars know little about Fra Angelico’s childhood, but given his skill level, he probably was born into a prosperous family and received foundational artistic training. Just before 1423, Angelico took the name Fra Giovanni when he donned the habit of the Domenican friars in the convent of San Domenico at Fiesole. He likely apprenticed with the famous Florentine manuscript illuminator Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-1425). Angelico was known to be a particularly pious individual, with Vassari slightly fictionally stating that the artist never painted a crucifix “without tears running down his cheeks.” Fra Angelico’s work the San Domenico demonstrated his loyalty to Dominican ideals which revolved around the adoration of Christ and Mary. By the 1430s, Fra Angelico was already one of the leading artists in Florence. He was so sought after that he and his brother Benedetto established a workshop to aid him. Angelico modeled his figures with light and intense, brilliant colors as opposed to Masaccesque chiaroscuro, or the strong contrast of light and dark tones. His mastery of Brunselleschian perspective enabled him to create innovative compositions with convincing architectural settings. Fra Angelico won the commission from Cosimo de’ Medici to create his best known altarpiece, The San Marco Altarpiece (c. 1438-42). Little is known of Angelico’s last years, but he assumed the responsibility as prior of his old convent in Fiesole from about 1449-52. He died in the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, on February 18, 1455. Angelico’s piety and dedication to faith was legendary.. Angelico’s rendering of narrative through innovative special construction and use of color inspired artists of different cultures and eras such as Luca Signorelli, Raphael, and Rogier van der Weyden.

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