Art – Fra Angelico, Annunciation

Fra Angelico, (Italian: “Angelic Brother”)(born c. 1400, Vicchio, republic of Florence [Italy]—died February 18, 1455, Rome), Italian painter, one of the greatest 15th-century painters, whose works within the framework of the early Renaissance style which adopted perspective as a technique.

He was a fresco painter.  Fresco is Italian for “fresh” in which color pigments are mixed solely with water (no binding agent used) and then applied directly onto freshly laid lime-plaster ground (surface).

The surface is typically a plastered wall or ceiling. The liquid paint is absorbed by the plaster and as the plaster dries the pigments are retained in the wall. Before paint was applied, the artist usually made a preparatory drawing (sinopia) in red chalk.

He gained work in the 1440’s with the renovation of San Marco convent in Florence financed by the Medici family.  It involved the church, living quarters and library – by the architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, and the opening of the first public library since antiquity. The commission to Fra Angelico included the convent’s altarpiece together with more than fifty other frescoes.

The Annunciation was one of the last San Marco frescoes to be completed and was painted on Angelico’s return from Rome in 1450. It shows Gabriel and the Virgin conversing in a cloister fringed with Corinthian columns. Mary is pictured seated within the cloister, which underlines her separateness from the world. The picture perfectly expresses the feeling of veneration on the part of Gabriel, as well as the submissive humility of the Madonna, while the gentle nature of the scene is reflected in the curves of both the figures and the architecture. Although the picture indicates good control of linear perspective, its lighting is rather inconsistent. Mary casts a shadow, but Gabriel does not – perhaps because he is a messenger of God. In addition, interior of the arcade is evenly lit throughout, despite the natural daylight coming from the left.


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