Magazine article USA TODAY

Storyteller

Magazine article USA TODAY

Storyteller

Article excerpt

THE EXHIBITION "Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth" explores Renaissance painter Fra Angelico's talent for storytelling. For the first time ever, the four newly restored reliquaries--containers for holy relics that were painted for the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy, between 1424-34--are being reunited. Together, they picture the life of the Virgin Mary and offer the opportunity to explore Angelico's talent for sacred tales.

Angelico (c. 1400-55) was celebrated in his own time as the most-famous painter in Italy. With remarkable ingenuity and rare technical expertise, he reconceived popular compositions and infused familiar Christian stories with new meaning. His iconic altar-pieces and frescoes--painted for two Popes, members of Florence's Medici family, and the city's merchant elite--transformed Western art, securing his place in history and forging the future of painting in Italy.

Born near Florence, Angelico trained in the workshop of the highly accomplished Lorenzo Monaco, collaborating with him on small narrative panels and manuscripts. Angelico's admission to the Dominican Order, a religious group devoted to Saint Dominic, transformed his career. Success at their Florentine headquarters of Santa Maria Novella and the Church of San Marco led to prestigious commissions outside of Florence, including employment at the Vatican Palace in Rome under Pope Nicholas V. Anointed "angelic" by the Dominican Order after he died in 1455, the title gave Angelico stature akin to Saint Thomas Aquinas.

"Heaven on Earth" brings together choice examples of his narrative art, inviting visitors to experience the wonder of his breathtaking stories up close and in a new light. Two monumental altarpieces, an intricate series of panels from his Silver Chest (Armadio degli Argenti), a precious triptych for private devotion, and nine predella scenes join the four reliquaries in a dramatic installation evocative of their Renaissance context. Many of these works are visiting the U.S. for the first time from their home collections in Italy.

Unprecedented loans for this exhibition include the three extraordinary reliquaries (Museo di San Marco, Florence) a magnificent altarpiece of Paradise (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence) and the jewel-like Corsini Triptych (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in Palazzo Corsini, Rome). …

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