The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Early Renaissance in Italy

Who was Fra Angelico?

Like Masaccio, Fra Angelico, whose nickname means “The Angelic Brother” in Italian, was known for his frescos. His real name was Guido di Pietro and he was famous not only for his art, but also for his modesty and his devotion to Christianity. Starting in 1435, Fra Angelico was hired to paint the interior of the Dominican Monastery of San Marco in Florence. For nearly ten years, the artist painted in the walls of each monk’s cell, as well as other walls within the monastery. The painting on the inside of Cell Three depicts the Annunciation, a scene in which the angel Gabriel visits Mary to tell her she will be the mother of Jesus Christ. Fra Angelico’s figures are graceful and elegant; Gabriel bows gently, his arms crossed over his chest and his wings brightly colored. Mary is seated to the right, framed by the architectural forms of her room. She also crosses her hands over her chest, a movement that both indicates modesty and forms a dove-like symbol of the Holy Spirit. The scene is simple, pious, and appears to glow with divine light.


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