fra Beato Angelico

The Virgin and the Child with Sts Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

The Virgin and the Child with Sts Dominic and Thomas Aquinas
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: fra Beato Angelico
Painting, Fresco, 196x187 cm
Origin: Italy, Between 1424 and 1430

No European country is as famous for its magnificent monumental frescoes - paintings on walls applied directly to wet plaster - as Italy in the period of the Renaissance. However, museums outside Italy contain few examples of frescoes. This exception, a fresco by Fra Angelico, a renowned 15th-century painter, comes from the monastery of San Domenico da Fiesole, where Fra Angelico, a Dominican monk, was prior. After the monastery was closed in the 19th century this fresco was removed and sold to the Florentine painters A. Mazzonti and C. Conti, who then sold it to the Hermitage.

This symmetrical composition, with the Madonna enthroned and surrounded by saints, developed in the medieval period and became widespread in Italian 15th-century painting. To the left of Mary is St Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, holding a lily, the symbol of purity. To the right is the great theologian St Thomas Aquinas, and on the pages of the book he is holding we can read the text of the Psalms. Unlike the saints, who are given individual features and character, the image of the Virgin is greatly idealized. It is her inspired image which gives the painting its mood of sublime lyricism.

Personage: Madonna and Child
Style: Renaissance
Source of entry: acquired in Florence from Alessandro Mazzonti and Cosimo Conti, 1883

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