The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, museum of St Marco in Florence, Italy

Fra Angelico loved to paint the adorable angelic faces. “The Annunciation” hangs in the museum of St Marco in Florence, Italy. It is not far away from his other great masterpiece, “The Resurrection.” The picture is facing the entrance to the corridor on the upper floor measures 2.24 metres high by 2.74 metres wide.

In “The Annunciation” Angelico depicts the Virgin Mary seated on a rough wooden stool among the columns which support the convent. Her arms are folded as if to prepare herself to bear the news she is expecting. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord appears before her. She gazes into his eyes as he delivers the divine message. The wings delicately created, glow with an abundance of colours. The hands are gently folded, and the messenger is in the act of kneeling in respect to the chosen one of God. The little grassy plot just outside of the cloister is spotted with daisies and separated from the tall cypress trees by the board fence. The same careful attention the artist reveals in the saintly countenance of his angels is also shown in inanimate objects. So meticulous was he in painting this fence that not only are the nail heads visible, but the grain in the wood is discernible as well and shows the extreme care has been given to the minutest detail.

Fra Angelico sought attention to detail in his work. He was pious, and he believed that he possessed the ability to express divine thoughts on the canvas, with brush and paint, was given to him to be used in further spreading devotion, much like the gift of oratory is given to great religious preachers. Thinking that God was inspiring his ideas, he made it a strict rule never to retouch a single part of any picture once it was finished.

His name will be associated with the highest achievements in Judeo Christian religious art. Fra Angelico’s most productive years were between 1436 and 1450. This was before the real beginning of the Renaissance. While it is noticeable that there is a certain stiffness in his figures when compared to the figures painted by Raphael and Michelangelo. However, he was limited by the technical skills that were available at the time. Many years separated his career from theirs. They had the opportunity to study his style and the styles of other great masters that followed him.

He was one of the last old (middle ages) painters, and one of the first of the new (Renaissance) painters. He significantly improved the stiff, lifeless styles of the Giotto period.

This good Dominican Priest observed the bonds of monastic discipline, and his art reflected this aspiration for piety.

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