Fra Angelico

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Round dance of angels and blessed ones from the Last Judgment, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Fra Angelico or Beato Angelico (* probably around 1395 to 1399 in Vicchio di Mugello near Florence , † February 18, 1455 in Rome ) - born as Guido di Pietro  - was a painter of the Italian Early Renaissance .

Pope John Paul II beatified Fra Angelico in 1982 . He is the patron saint of Christian artists.


Saint Dominic, detail from the fresco Mocking Christ in a Cell in the Convent of San Marco, Florence

His real name was Guido di Pietro, his religious name was Fra Giovanni. His contemporaries knew him as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (brother Johannes from Fiesole). Fiesole is sometimes misinterpreted as part of its name. It is actually the name of the city where he made his profession . This addition was used to distinguish him from other friars who were called Giovanni.

He is also known as Beato Angelico (roughly: "the angelic blessed"), because during his lifetime or shortly after he was called Il Beato ("the blessed"), which refers to his way of depicting Christian iconography.

Giorgio Vasari describes him in Le Vite de 'più eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori (before 1555) as Fra Giovanni Angelico and speaks of his “rare and excellent talent”.

In the Martyrologium Romanum he is referred to as Beatus Ioannes Faesulanus, cognomento Angelicus ("Blessed Giovanni von Fiesole, called Angelico").


Fra Angelico was born as Guido or Guidolino di Pietro in Vicchio im Mugello , in Tuscany near Fiesole . His parental ancestry is not known. Vasari gave 1387 as the year of birth, but it has been known since 1955 that this information is incorrect. It is now believed that he was born around the mid to late 1390s.

Fra Angelico: Annunciation, fresco in the north corridor of San Marco , Florence

The earliest surviving document that mentions him is dated October 17, 1417, when he joined a religious brotherhood , still under the name Guido di Pietro . This document also shows that he was a painter even then. A fact that is also attested by two payment slips from January and February 1418, issued for work performed in the Church of Santo Stefano del Ponte. The first testimony of him as a friar of the Dominican Order comes from 1423, after he entered the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole and took the name Fra Giovanni .

He was originally trained as an illuminator (book illuminator) and probably worked with his brother Benedetto, who was also a Dominican . His teacher is unknown. In some cases, training with Starnina and the influence of the work of Masolino and Masaccio is accepted. Lorenzo Monaco may also have contributed to his education, the Gothic Sienese school shaped his formal language. He had several important tasks in the convents in which he lived, but this did not limit his artistic output.

According to Vasari , the artist's first works were an altarpiece and a painted rood screen for the church of the Charterhouse of San Lorenzo di Galluzzo in Florence; The remains of a triptych with an enthroned Madonna and Child are preserved.

Detail from the Descent from the
Cross, Museo di San Marco, Florence

For his convent of San Domenico in Fiesole he painted various frescoes, as well as the famous Coronation of Mary in the Louvre (Paris) and the Annunciation of the Prado (Madrid). He decorated the high altar of the monastery church with a triptych that was redesigned a few decades later by Lorenzo di Credi .

Soon Fra Angelico received important commissions from Florence and other parts of Italy. His Annalena altar with the enthroned Mother of God and six saints, probably built shortly after 1434 for the former monastery of San Vincenzo d'Annalena, is considered the first known rectangular altar panel of the Renaissance in the sense of a sacra conversazione . This altar also had a great influence on his important Pala of San Marco (1439–1442), which unfortunately was damaged by an unskillful restoration.

He also created several works for the Dominican convent in Cortona , where he can be shown to have stayed in 1438, including a triptych of a Madonna with saints and an Annunciation (both in the Museo Diocesano, Cortona), as well as frescoes in the monastery church, of which only one more thing is preserved.

The Convent of San Marco in Florence , where Fra Angelico lived for a long time after 1436, has several manuscripts that are believed to have been hand- illuminated in whole or in part by him . On behalf of Cosimo de 'Medici, from 1439 he painted the monastery cells and cloisters of San Marco with pictures that were intended to serve the devotion and inner contemplation of the monks . Various employees and students helped him, the most important of which is Benozzo Gozzoli . The convent is now largely a museum, which also houses many other works by Fra Angelico.

Fra Angelicos tomb (detail) in Santa Maria sopra Minerva , Rome

In 1445 he worked in Rome for Pope Eugene IV in the chapel of Santissimo Sacramento, and began in 1447 with frescoes in the cathedral of Orvieto , which he left unfinished, in order to create the frescoes in the cappella for the new Pope Nicholas V in Rome until 1449 To paint Niccolina , with the help of Benozzo Gozzoli.

From 1450 to 1452 he was prior of the monastery in Fiesole.

In 1452 he returned to Rome , where he died on February 18, 1455. His tomb is in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.


Fra Angelico was one of the most important painters of the early Renaissance. His work already impressed contemporaries with its deeply experienced, deep piety and was early on as "directly mystically inspired". In addition, for a long time the artistic and historical significance of his painting faded into the background and was completely wrongly underestimated. He combined mystical-Gothic features and elegance with the new developments of the Renaissance, which he took up especially from artists such as Masaccio and Masolino. Typical of Fra Angelico is a certain classic simplicity of the picture structure and, especially in the mature works, a soft but luminous color scheme.

He himself was an innovator with the introduction of rectangular altar panels (instead of polyptychs ), as u. a. the proclamation for San Domenico in Fiesole (Prado, Madrid), repeated by himself in several variations , and the Annalena altar with its Sacra Conversazione .

Comparison of Fra Angelico's lamentation in front of the grave (1438–42, tempera , 38 × 46 cm; left) with that of Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1450, oil , 110 × 96 cm). Note that Angelico's tablet is much smaller in the original.

Fra Angelico was also one of the first to depict figures from behind, as u. a. in the Coronation of Mary in the Louvre. His design of the unfortunately not well-preserved Pala of San Marco with a view of a tree-lined garden in the background was exemplary for the art of the Renaissance. In addition to the works mentioned and the Last Judgment for Santa Maria degli Angeli (today in San Marco), Fra Angelico's frescoes of the monastery of San Marco in their extreme simplicity and mystical intimacy are the highlight of his work .

Fra Angelico's influence even extended beyond the borders of Italy: The pictorial invention of the central Predellenbildes Lamentation of Christ from the grave of his Pala of San Marco (1439-42) impressed Rogier van der Weyden during his stay in Italy (1450) so much so that it has a similar composition , but in the Dutch style and in oil , created (now in the Uffizi, Florence). Van der Weyden's so-called Madonna de 'Medici (approx. 1450–55) also owes its composition in the style of a Sacra Conversazione, which is completely unusual for Dutch painting, to the model of Beato Angelico.


Altars (tempera)

Life of St. Nicholas (detail), 1447–48, image of a predelle from the polyptych in Perugia
  • 1428–1429: Triptych of San Pietro Martire, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 1424–1430: Madonna with angels and saints (formerly triptych, modified by Lorenzo di Credi ), high altar picture in S. Domenico in Fiesole, National Gallery, London
  • 1428–1430: Triptych of the Certosa di Galluzo, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 1430s (?): Descent from the Cross ( Pala Strozzi ), altar of the Cappella Strozzi in Santa Trinita , Museo di S. Marco , Florence (gable by Lorenzo Monaco )
  • 1430–1432: Annunciation to Maria, Prado , Madrid
  • around 1432 (?): Death and Assumption of Mary (reliquary), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum , Boston
  • after 1433: Linaiuoli tabernacle (altar of the linen weavers), Museo di S. Marco, Florence (together with Lorenzo Ghiberti )
  • after 1433: Madonna and Child, Galleria Sabauda , Turin
  • 1432–34: Annunciation, Museo Diocesano, Cortona
  • 1434: Madonna della Stella (reliquary), Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 14xx: The Last Judgment, Gemäldegalerie , Berlin
  • 1432–1435: The Last Judgment, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 1434–1435: Coronation of the Virgin Mary, Uffizi Gallery , Florence
  • 14xx: Coronation of Mary, Louvre , Paris
  • 1437: Madonna and Child, Angels and Saints ( Triptych of Perugia ), Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia
  • around 1437: Madonna with angels and St. Dominic and Catherine, Vatican Museums , Rome
  • 1437–1440: Pala von Annalena (Annalena altar), Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 1436–1441: Lamentation under the Cross, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • 1439–1442: Pala von San Marco, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • around 1450: Pala von Bosco ai Frati, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
  • around 1450: Armadio degli Argenti, Museo di S. Marco, Florence
Petrus Martyr urges silence, around 1441, fresco in San Marco, Florence


  • 1438 - around 1450: fresco decoration in the monastery of San Marco , Florence (partly together with Benozzo Gozzoli and other collaborators), including:
    • Crucifixion in the chapter house
    • Annunciation (two versions: around 1441 and around 1450)
    • Adoration of St. three kings (with Gozzoli?)
    • Noli me tangere (also: Christ as a gardener )
    • Transfiguration of Christ
    • Madonna delle ombre ("Madonna of the Shadows")
  • 1447–1449: Life of St. Stephen and Lorenz, decoration of the Cappella Niccolina , Vatican, Rome


  • Angelico, Fra. In: Wolf Stadler (Ed.), Peter Wiench (Red.): Lexikon der Kunst. Painting, architecture, sculpture in twelve volumes. Volume 1: Aac-Barm. Müller, Erlangen 1994, ISBN 3-86070-452-4 , pp. 197-203.
  • Giulio Carlo Argan : Fra Angelico. Biographical crit. Study (= taste of our time. Volume 10). Translated from the Ital. Editions d'Art Albert Skira, Geneva 1955, OCLC 174810979 .
  • Wolfgang Bader: Fra Angelico: Insights into life and work. Verlag Neue Stadt, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-87996-658-3 .
  • Georges Didi-Huberman : Fra Angelico. Dissimilarity and figuration. Translated from the French. by Andreas Knop. Wilhelm Fink-Verlag, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-7705-2949-9 .
  • Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico (= Master of Italian Art ), (originally: Könemann, Cologne 1998) h. f. ullmann publishing, Potsdam 2007, ISBN 978-3-8331-3830-0 .
  • Jacqueline and Maurice Guillaud: Fra Angelico. The light of the soul. Altarpieces and frescoes of the San Marco monastery in Florence. 2nd ed. From the Franz. By Irène Kuhn . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-608-76233-7 .
  • Anselm Hertz , Ill. Helmuth Nils Loose : Fra Angelico. Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-451-19256-X .
  • William Hood : Fra Angelico at San Marco. Yale University Press, New Haven 1993, ISBN 0-300-05734-2 .
  • Paolo Morachiello: Fra Angelico: The San Marco Frescoes. Translated from the Italian by Eleanor Daunt. Thames and Hudson, New York 1996, ISBN 0-500-23729-8 .
  • Hermann Nasse: Fra Giovanni Angelico da Fiesole. Allgemeine Verlagsanstalt, Munich 1924, DNB 36154443X .
  • John T. Spike: Fra Angelico. Life and work. Translation from English and Italian by Klaudia Murmann and Barbara Geratz Matera. Hirmer, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7774-7530-0 .
  • Giorgio Vasari : The life of Lippi, Pesello and Pesellino, Castagno, Veneziano and Fra Angelico. Newly translated into German by Victoria Lorini. Ed., Commented by, introduced by Jana Graul and Heiko Damm. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-8031-5054-7 .

Web links

Commons : Fra Angelico  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico (= master of Italian art ). Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 6 and 8.
  2. The Munich Pinakothek also states around 1395, but in the text between "1386 and 1399". Fra Angelico (1395-1455). In: Alte Pinakothek , accessed on March 15, 2017.
  3. Andrea del Sarto , Raffael and Michelangelo were also named so by their contemporaries, because their skills were viewed as a special gift from God.
  4. ^ Giorgio Vasari : Lives of the Artists. Penguin Classics, 1965 (first published in 1568).
  5. ^ Werner Cohn: Il Beato Angelico e Battista di Biagio Sanguigni. Nuovi documenti. In: Revista d'Arte. 30 (1955) OCLC 888698128 , pp. 207-221.
  6. ^ Stefano Orlandi: Beato Angelico. Monographia Storica della Vita e delle Opere con un'Appendice di Nuovi Documenti Inediti. Leo S. Olschki Editore, Florence 1964, OCLC 640144019 .
  7. ^ John T. Spike: Fra Angelico. Firmer, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7774-7530-0 , pp. 23, 26 ( pp. 20 f. On Starnina, Masolino in the Google book search).
  8. Today in the Museo di San Marco, Florence. Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 14, 16, 19.
  9. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 6, 49 ff. And 54–55.
  10. On a rectangular Sacra Conversazione . Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 18.
  11. Today (2020) in the Museo di San Marco, Florence. Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 34 (also p. 37-38).
  12. Angelico, Fra. In: Lexicon of Art. Erlangen 1994, pp. 197-203, here: pp. 201-202.
  13. Today (2020) in the Museo di San Marco, Florence. Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 34 and 40.
  14. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 6, 22-23 and 52-53.
  15. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 10, 64, 66.
  16. They were only completed later by Luca Signorelli . Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 6.
  17. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 6.
  18. a b Angelico, Fra. In: Lexicon of Art. Volume 1. Erlangen 1994, pp. 197-203, here: p. 199.
  19. This altar is considered to be the first rectangular altar of the early Renaissance in Florence. Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 49.
  20. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 34 and 37–38.
  21. a b Angelico, Fra. In: Lexicon of Art. Volume 1. Erlangen 1994, pp. 197-203, here: pp. 200-202.
  22. a b Angelico, Fra. In: Lexicon of Art. Volume 1. Erlangen 1994, pp. 197-203, here: p. 203.
  23. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, p. 64.
  24. ^ Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico. Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 46–47.
  25. ^ Sacra Conversazione. In: Lexicon of Art. Volume 10. Erlangen 1994, p. 233 f., Here: p. 234.
  26. Alexander Duckers, Marcello Toffanello: Rogier van der Weyden (= special edition of the Corriere della Sera ). Rizzoli / Skira, 2004, p. 142 f. (Italian).