A Short History of Italian Painting

By Alice Van Vechten Brown; William Rankin | Go to book overview
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FRA ANGELICO1 1387-1455

ALMOST in a back eddy of the rising tide we find a contemporary of Masaccio, Fra Angelico.

Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico, the "angelic friar") was early ( 1407) admitted into the Dominican order at S. Domenico, a hamlet at the foot of the hill leading to Fiesole, near Florence. For a few years he shared the troubles of his convent, whose inmates, siding with Gregory XII in his claims against Alexander V, were driven from their home and took refuge at Foligno, and then at Cortona.2Here at Cortona the young painter left some of the most precious evidences of his genius, but in 1418 the monks returned from their banishment, to S. Domenico. In 1436 they were established in the Convent of San Marco in Florence itself--a building made famous two generations later ( 1491-1498) by its great Prior, Savonarola. Here the already famous brother began to decorate halls and cells with devotional pictures. All that we know of Fra Angelico's character is charming--his sweetness of disposition, his devotion to the daily task, his unspoiled sense of his mission in painting. His life was that of the absorbed craftsman and mystic in one. His early training may have been that of a miniaturist--the exquisite character of his craftsmanship suggests it--and at some time Lorenzo Monaco, from internal evidence, may have taught him. His work was in demand far outside the limits of his convent, and toward the end of his life commissions drew him away from Florence. Before he was sixty he was called to Rome to decorate a chapel of the Pope in the Vatican,3 and in

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1
See Douglas' Fra Angelico, Supino in Th.-B. Lex., and recent book on him by F. Schottmüller.
2
Florence and the General of the Dominicans sided with Alexander V.
3
That for Pope Eugene IV (perished), and upon his death one for Nicholas V, now existing.

-110-

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