In 1438 Fra Angelico moved to the Dominican Monastery of San Marco in
Fra Angelico’s significant paintings in the monastery and elsewhere in
The Annunciation portrays the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that God has chosen her to be the mother of Jesus. This painting is in the corridor of the North Dormitory of San Marco at the top of a staircase. The architectural details of the porch where Gabriel finds Mary—the Corinthian columns, round arches, and classical proportions—come from San Marco itself. The linear perspective of the painting tells us that, though Christian in subject, this painting is not medieval but Renaissance in style. The painting is a large one and the two figures in it are life-sized. Words painted at the bottom of the painting praise Mary and encourage the monks to do so as well as they walk by her image.
The Massacre of the Holy Innocents was originally painted by Fra Angelico for a church in
Thirty years later another ruler did succeed in murdering Jesus. In The Crucifixion of San Marco, Fra Angelico portrays a host of saints present with Jesus and mourning his tragic yet victorious death.
Let us pause and appreciate those he includes in this painting because of their significance to him, his religious order, and his culture: Dominic (1170-1221), Jerome (c. 347-420), Augustine (354-430), Francis (1181-1226), Benedict (480-547), Bernard (1090-1153), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and Lawrence (225-258). Looking at the people standing or kneeling to the right of Jesus, we have Dominic kneeling with outstretched arms, Jerome kneeling and praying, Augustine standing behind Jerome and holding a book and bishop’s staff, Francis kneeling and wearing his burlap bag and rope belt, Benedict holding a rod symbolizing his famous set of rules, Bernard kneeling behind Francis, and Thomas Aquinas standing at the far right.
The Deposition, or removal of the body of Jesus from the cross, was also originally painted for a church in
Other important paintings created by Fra Angelico during his years in Florence include The Transfiguration and Madonna and Saints (or San Marco Altarpiece).
Fra Angelico died on February 18, 1455 in
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