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Fra Angelico   By: (1858-1940)

Book cover

First Page:

FRA ANGELICO

BY

J. B. SUPINO

TRANSLATED

BY

LEADER SCOTT.

FLORENCE

ALINARI BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.

1902.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Printed by Barbéra Alfani and Venturi, proprietors Florence.

[Illustration: The Annunciation. (Convent of San Marco, Florence)]

INDEX.

Beato Angelico Proem Page 5

I. Fra Angelico at Cortona and Perugia (1409 1418) 29

II. Fra Angelico at Fiesole (1418 1436) 55

III. Fra Angelico at Florence (1436 1445) 93

San Marco 95

In the Gallery of Ancient and Modern Art 131

IV. Fra Angelico at Rome and Orvieto (1445 1455) 155

Index to the Illustrations 179

[Illustration]

[Illustration: Angels of the "Last Judgement."]

Tradition shows us Fra Giovanni Angelico absorbed in his work, and either caressing with his brush one of those graceful angelic figures which have made him immortal, or reverently outlining the sweet image of the Virgin before which he himself would kneel in adoration. Legend pictures him devoutly prostrate in prayer before commencing work, that his soul might be purified, and fitted to understand and render the divine subject; and again in oration after leaving his easel, to thank heaven for having given him power to make his holy visions visible to other eyes.

But has tradition any foundation in fact? Why not? Through his numberless works we may easily divine the soul of the artist, and can well understand, how the calm and serene atmosphere of the monastic cell, the church perfumed with incense, and the cloister vibrating with psalms, would develop the mystic sentiment in such a mind.

And can we disregard tradition in face of such humility of life, such beauty of work, exquisite refinement of feeling, and sweetness of expression!

Among all the masters who have attempted to imbue the human form with the divine spirit, he is perhaps the only one who succeeded in producing pure celestial figures, and this with such marvellous simplicity of line, that they have become the glory of his art.

Whether it be the Virgin enthroned amidst groups of cherubim sounding heavenly trumpets, or Christ blessing the just and driving away sinners; whether the martyrs supporting their torments with superhuman resignation, the apostles preaching the gospel, or angels free in the air and chanting celestial glories; the same spirit is in them all at once intense, devout, and utterly pure, in which the fervent believer and the true artist are inseparably blended.

The reason is, that Fra Giovanni put into his work the flame of an overpowering passion; under his touch features were beautified, and figures animated with a new mystic grace. He threw himself entirely into his art which thus became the spontaneous expression of his soul. "It was the custom of Fra Giovanni," says Vasari, "to abstain from retouching or improving any painting once finished. He altered nothing, but left all as it was done the first time, believing, as he said, that such was the will of God. It is also affirmed that he would never take his pencil in hand until he had first offered a prayer. He is said never to have painted a crucifix without tears streaming from his eyes, and in the countenances and attitudes of his figures it is easy to perceive proof of his sincerity, his goodness, and the depth of his devotion to the religion of Christ."[1]

How this devout mind, full of the figurative sacred writings then current, must have overflowed with visions, ecstasies and miracles! And what tremors of awe must he have felt, in putting these visions into colour! His Madonnas, their features suffused with candour and humility, bend with maternal grace hitherto unwitnessed, in loving contemplation of the Son, or mothers in glory they bow to receive the homage of the Redeemer... Continue reading book >>




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