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Fra Angelico

The 'Angelic Friar'

Fra Angelico, Annunciation (San Marco)

Fra Angelico (c. 1395–1455), occasionally called Beato Angelico since his 1982 beatification by John Paul II, was born Guido di Pietro. Contemporaries, though, knew him as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole.

So much confusion for one of the most simple and natural of artists! Monk first and painter second, Fra Angelico was nevertheless one of the great visionaries of the Renaissance. He was really born in a village of the Mugello, and only took his vows at Fiesole (hence the name). He worked in Fiesole and Cortona, and briefly in Florence, but little of his early career is known.

He got to join the mainstream of art in 1436 when he was assigned to the newly-built Monastery of San Marco in Florence. Angelico already had a reputation as the most advanced and skilful artist in Tuscany; according to Vasari, Cosimo de' Medici himself asked him to decorate the new buildings (Cosimo had a cell built for himself at San Marco, and used it for spiritual retreats).

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Renaissance Art & Architecture


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by carulmare, The Yorck Project