Fra Angélico (1395 – 1455)

Dominican friar and painter of religious themes, Fra Angelico, called Guido di Piero, was one of the architects of the pictorial renewal that took place in Florence during the first half of the 15th century.

Fra Angelico’s Biography and Work

Presumably trained as a miniaturist and painter within the Trecento tradition, he soon adopted the innovations in artistic language introduced by Brunelleschi and Masaccio, although he distanced himself from both the Gothic manner and Renaissance naturalism to create, above all, a new type of devotional painting.

When Fra Angelico undertook between 1440 and 1441, commissioned by Cosimo de Medicis, the decoration of the cells of the Florentine convent of San Marco, to which he was linked as a Dominican monk, a whole aspect of religious painting was regenerated.

La Anunciación - Obra de Fra Angélico
The Annunciation – Fra Angelico

Angelico renounced in his frescoes to any purely decorative component: the spiritual message was henceforth exalted by the purity of the composition and the rigor of its lines in harmony with the simplicity of space. He developed in his representations a form of spirituality that transcends the frame of the image.

The technique of Guido di Piero

He exalted faith and its mysteries; mathematical laws taken to their paroxysm revealed the same desire to represent what reason could only glimpse. Fra Angelico’s frescoes, conceived as an aid to prayer and meditation, had as their main purpose to support the spiritual exercise of the Dominican friars and to elevate the spirit from the material world to the divine.

In this sense, each fresco, by its rational austerity and the purity of its construction, constituted a call to meditation on the mysteries of faith and to self-forgetfulness in religious contemplation.

martirio de san lorenzo obras renacentista de Fra Angélico
martyrdom of saint lorenzo, work of Fra Angelico

The exceptional renown acquired in his time by Fra Angelico, called at his death a «second Apelles», as well as the magnitude of the works carried out by the artist in the city of Florence, linked forever the destiny of the artist and the city, then in full political and cultural maturity.

Some important dates in the life of Fra Angelico

  • 1395 – Guido di Piero, known as Fra Angelico, is born in Vicchio nel Mugello
  • 1423 – First mention as a Dominican friar
  • 1430 – Numerous miniatures in the convent of Fiesole
  • 1440-1441 – Fra enters the convent of San Marco and creates frescoes
  • 1440 – «The Coronation of the Virgin»(Louvre) and «Altarpiece of St. Mark» (St. Mark’s Museum)
  • 1446-1447 – Called to Rome by the Pope, he paints the frescoes in the chapel of Nicholas V in the Vatican («Stories of Saints Stephen and Lawrence»)
  • 1450 – Prior of San Domenico di Fiesole
  • 1455 – Dies in Rome
Obras de Fra Angélico - La coronación de la Virgen
The Coronation of the Virgin – Fra Angelico