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Who is... Fra Angelico?

`NOLI ME TANGERE' When Mary Magdalene recognises Christ, she moves to touch him, whomoves away

Fra Angelico was born in a province in Tuscany in 1387. He was christened Guido and with his father's name being Pietro, he was called Guido di Pietro. He was a Dominican friar and with his brother Fra Benedetto started his career illuminating manuscripts. The influence of illustrating comes through in his works in the colouring of the robes, the embroidery and the pure and brilliant colours. The influence of international Gothic is also clear in his work.

He combined the elegantly decorative elements of Gothic with the realism of the Renaissance. The principles of perspective were used effectively while facial expression and colour were used to suggest emotion.

While Ruskin asks that he be looked at as "not an artist properly so-called but an inspired saint," and art historian and biographer Giorgio Vasari describes him as "a simple and most holy man," Fra Angelico was a professional artist, in tune with the latest developments in his craft. Angelico's most famous works include the frescoes in convent of San Marco. The frescoes with their perfect colouring and economy of composition were intended to stimulate prayer and meditation. This simplicity was what drew the Pre-Raphaelites in the nineteenth century to Angelico's work. Fra Angelico was inspired a great deal by Giotto's work to which he had access. Fra Angelico believed to be able to paint Christ, one must be Christ-like and according to Vasari, prefaced every painting with a prayer.

`The Presentation'

Fra Angelico accepted commissions to work in Orvieto, Perugia and for the Pope Eugenius IV and his successor Pope Nicholas V in Rome. It is said that the Pope Eugenius offered Fra Angelico the position of Archbishop of Florence, which he declined. He died in Rome in 1455. Vasari popularised the name of Angelico and while the painter has long been called Beato Angelico (the blessed Angelico), his beatification was fairly recent. Fra Angelico is an important figure in the world of renaissance art - being the inspiration for Fra Bartolommeo, Benozzo Gozzoli and the school of Perugia.


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