Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art

Cimabue

Dante

Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano

Donatello

Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico

Fra Carnevale

Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

Gentile da Fabriano

Gherarducci

Domenico Ghirlandaio

Giambologna

Giorgio Vasari

Giotto di bondone

Giovanni da Modena

Giovanni da San Giovanni

Giovanni di Francesco

Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Monaco

Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli

masaccio

masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of sain tfrancis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello

perugino

piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti

pinturicchio

pontormo

sandro botticelli

sano di pietro

sassetta

simone martini

spinello aretino


taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio

vecchietta

 

             
 
Fra Angelico, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican, View of the chapel
Travel guide for Tuscany
       
   

Fra Angelico | Frescoes in the Cappella Niccolina of the Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican (1447-49)

   
   

The Niccoline Chapel (Cappella Niccolina) is a chapel in the Vatican Palace. [1] It is especially notable for its fresco paintings by Fra Angelico (1447–1451) [2] and his assistants, who may have executed much of the actual work. The name is derived from its patron, Pope Nicholas V, who had it built for use as his private chapel.
The Chapel of Nicholas V (Cappella Niccolina) is the only surviving fresco cycle of the four executed by Fra Angelico during his half decade of intense activity of papal service in Rome, from 1445 to 1449. By February 18, 144S, Fra Angelico had already begun work on these paintings, which completely fill the small secret chapel used by Nicholas V to celebrate Mass in private. For Langton Douglas, these Vatican frescoes represented Fra Angelico's highest achievement, "an anthology of his artistic virtues."

The chapel is located in the Tower of Innocent III, in the most ancient part of the Apostolic Palace. The walls were decorated by Fra Angelico with images of two of the earliest Christian martyrs; the upper level has Episodes from the Life of St. Stephen, and the lower one Scenes from the life of St. Laurence. The vault is painted blue, decorated with stars, and features figures of the Four Evangelists in the corners. The pilasters are decorated with the eight Doctors of the Church.

Fra Angelico depicted a Deposition of Christ (the removal of Christ from the Cross) on the wall behind the altar, but it has been destroyed. However, his other works in the lunettes are well preserved.

Under the pontificate of Nicholas V (1447-55) the Vatican became a court of the muses. The pope chief interest in the realm of arts was the embellishment of Rome. Fra Angelico took up his work in the Vatican for painting the pope's private chapel. The Cappella Niccolina is on the second floor of the Palazzo Vaticano (now part of the Vatican Museums). Three walls are covered with frescoes representing scenes from the lives of St Stephen and St Lawrence, two archdeacons who had been widely venerated in Rome since the early Middle Ages. The fresco on the altar wall (the south wall) had been destroyed. According to Vasari, this wall was adorned with an Entombment of Christ by Fra Angelico.

Fra Angelico was able to accomplish this considerable amount of work only with the assistance of a large workshop. In addition to Benozzo Gozzoli we know the names of other collaborators, although it is impossible to identify their individual contributions. Stylistic analysis has determined that the scenes from the life of St Lawrence were largely the work of Fra Angelico, while there was a greater contribution of the workshop, especially Benozzo Gozzoli, to the execution of the scenes in the lunettes.
The paintings are markedly different in emphasis from those of Angelico's in the San Marco. The purpose of these Roman frescoes was narrative, and to assist in the telling of his story Angelico used a richness of detail, multiformity of incident, number of figures and wealth of colour which has no parallel in the earlier work.

Angelico died in Rome and was buried in the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva, where his tombstone still exists. His most important pupil was Benozzo Gozzoli and he had considerable influence on Italian painting.

 

Fra Angelico, St Peter Consacrates Stephen as Deacon (detail), Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
   
   

The three walls of the chapel are divided into two registers with stories of Saint Stephen in the lunettes above, and Saint Lawrence below. Stephen was one of the first deacons ordained by Saint Peter in Jerusalem. Fluent in Greek, he ministered to the needs of the Greek widows in the early Christian community. Stephen was thoroughly versed in the scriptures and he fearlessly debated the unconverted Jews in the synagogues of Jerusalem. His vigorous debate with the elders of the Sanhedrin occupies the right half of a lunette in which Fra Angelico depicted in the other half, by contrast, the saint's words being gratefully received by a congregation of women seated under an open sky. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. His preaching infuriated his enemies, who cast him out of the city gates and stoned him to death; a consenting witness on the scene was Saul of Tarsus.

In the lower register of each wall are scenes from the life of Saint Lawrence, the Roman martyr of the third century. They represent: his ordination by Saint Sixtus; the pope giving him the treasures of the Church while the imperial soldiers forcibly enter through the door at left; Saint Lawrence's distribution of these treasures to needy widows, orphans, and crippled; the saint's interrogation by the Emperor Decius; a small inset scene of Saint Lawrence converting his jailor; and, finally, his martyrdom on the fiery gridiron.
The parallels between the ordinations, ministry, and martyrdoms of the two courageous deacons, Stephen and Lawrence, have been carefully drawn in order to demonstrate the continuity between the early Church of Jerusalem led by Saint Peter and the early Church of Rome guided by the popes. The august basilicas and finely detailed friezes and capitals of the architectural settings evoke one of the principle themes of Nicholas V's papacy: the restoration of the Eternal City to its ancient glory as caput mundi. The imposing gates of Jerusalem in the lunette of Saint Stephen doubtless refer to Nicholas V's construction of new walls in Rome and the aqueduct of the Acqua Vergine.

Frescoes on the west wall of the Cappella Niccolina

Frescoes on the north wall of the Cappella Niccolina

Frescoes on the east wall of the Cappella Niccolina

 

 
   
West wall

The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register)
  North wall

The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register).

On the lunette of the north wall, St Stephen is seen preaching on the left, and on the right engaged in the dispute with the Jews that led to his condemnation. In the bottom register, St Sixtus is entrusting the church treasure to St Lawrence (left) and St Lawrence distributing alms (right, above the entrance door).

 

East wall

The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register).

On the east wall the narratives run parallel. To the left in the lunette St Stephen is being led to his martyrdom, and to the right we see him being stoned to death. In the lower register Lawrence is first condemned by Emperor Valerian, then in the adjacent scene he is martyred by being roasted on a gridiron. Between these is an auxiliary motif, seen through a small window, showing the conversion of St Hyppolitus, the chief jailer.

 

 
Frescoes on the west wall of the Cappella Niccolina



Lunette of the west wall


Fra Angelico, Lunette on the west wall, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican, View of the chapel

The lunette represents two scenes: The Sermon of St Stephen and Dispute before the Sanhedrin.

On the left St Stephen preaches to an array of figures placed throughout the vista of space. To the right, in a chamber which is also embedded in the lefthand scene yet has a different perspective framework, he addresses the council. Here the depth of the picture is truncated by a blank wall hung with a curtain.

The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register).

On the lunette of the west wall, St Peter, prince of the apostles, is anointing St Stephen, deacon of the church. In the smaller compartment of the lower register, between the two windows, St Sixtus is seen bestowing the same office on St Lawrence. This lunette presents a second scene of St Stephen distributing alms to the poor. The corresponding motif from the life of St Lawrence appears in the right-hand picture compartment of the north wall, above the entry.

There are also two original windows on the west wall.

 
 
The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register).

St. Peter Consacrates St. Lawrence as Deacon


Fra Angelico, St. Peter Consacrates St. Lawrence as Deacon, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican, View of the chapel


Sixtus II (257-258) had charged archdeacon Lawrence with dispersing the church's wealth to the needy. This deed aroused the ire of Emperor Valerian who had claimed the treasure for himself, and formed the basis for the charges brought against Lawrence and his eventual execution.

In its setting in the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V in the Vatican, the dramatic impact of this fresco is aided by its position between two recessed windows. The scene is set in the nave of a basilica, the type of architectural space which in St Lawrence distributing Alms was used only as a backdrop. Five columns are visible on either side, and they are equalled in volume and monumentality by the bishops and other churchmen who witness St Lawrence kneeling before the Pope. The end wall of the basilica and its niche bring emphasis to no figure in the composition, for none stands at the centre. The central axis runs instead through the communion chalice which passes between the Pope and the saint.

Fra Angelico painted portraits of Nicholas V in the guise of his classical antecedent, Sixtus II in the episodes of Lawrence's ordination and receipt of the Church's money. Nicholas V identified closely with Saint Lawrence, the protector of booksellers, librarians
and bibliophiles. As Sixtus II hands the paten and the chalice to the young deacon, a young religious directly behind them holds one of the previous volumes that were also given to Lawrence for safekeeping. References to the life of Nicholas V may well be concealed in these frescoes. For example, the casting out of Saint Stephen represented a schism in the Jewish church. Tommaso Parentucelli, the future Nicholas V, was personally witness to many schismatic crises in the Catholic church. The fine portrayal of Stephen debating the Sanhedrin might recall Parentucelli's brilliant orations at the Council of the Union. This idea is reinforced by the striking similarities between Fra Angelico's portrayals of Stephen and Lawrence. The painter has expended little effort to distinguish his two protagonists quite the contrary.

 

 

 

St Peter Consacrates Stephen as Deacon


Fra Angelico, St Peter Consacrates Stephen as Deacon (detail), Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

 
 

St Stephen Distributing Alms


Fra Angelico, St Stephen Distributing Alms, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

 
Frescoes on the north wall of the Cappella Niccolina

The cycles continue on the north wall. In the lunette St Stephen is seen preaching on the left, and on the right engaged in the dispute with the Jews that had led to his condemnation. In the bottom register on the left, St Sixtus is entrusting the church treasure to Lawrence, while in the right-hand compartment St Lawrence is distributing alms (the corresponding motif from the life of St Stephen appears on the west wall).

   

Lunette of the north wall


Fra Angelico, Lunette of the north wall, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican, View of the chapel
   
 

The Sermon of St Stephen


Fra Angelico, St. Lawrence on Trial, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The Sermon of St Stephen is the left part of the lunette on the north wall.
 
 
 

Dispute before Sanhedrin


Fra Angelico, Dispute before Sanhedrin, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The Dispute before Sanhedrin is the right part of the lunette on the north wall.
 
   
Below the lunette two scenes are represented: St Sixtus Entrusts the Church Treasures to Lawrence and St Lawrence Distributing Alms.

St Lawrence, a third-century Roman who, like St Stephen, suffered a violent death for his faith, was venerated as one of the most famous martyrs of the city of Rome. This fresco panel is divided in two, without any attempt to give the neighbouring scenes any architectural or spatial cohesion. The architecture employed by Angelico in both scenes is of a distinctly Roman splendour and dignity. The two events from the life of the saint are simply told. They are rich in detail but none is superfluous to the narrative.

On the left he kneels to receive the treasures of the Church from Pope St Sixtus II, who is given the features of Angelico's patron, Nicholas V. It has been suggested that the depiction of the two soldiers preparing to break open a bricked-up door, is a reference to Pope Nicholas's decision to declare 1450 a Jubilee Year.

On the right, St Lawrence is shown framed in the entrance to a colonnaded basilica of great monumentality. The distant apse further frames and gives emphasis to the saint. He is attended by the poor, blind and lame, and hands money to a legless man in the immediate foreground. His scarlet vestment is scattered with golden flames and hints at his future death by burning.


St Sixtus Entrusts the Church Treasures to Lawrence


Fra Angelico, St Sixtus Entrusts the Church Treasures to Lawrence, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

In 1447, or perhaps earlier, Fra Angelico was in Rome, where he painted the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V with scenes from the lives of St Lawrence and St Stephen, frescoes which sum up the whole trend of his work. They possess a logical realism in their perspective settings, clarity of scale and narrative content, and restraint in their vigour. The colour is limpid, but with sufficient use of chiaroscuro to give substance to the figures; the use of continuous representation is kept to a minimum by the division of the scenes through differences in their architectural setting, but nowhere is the search for realism in the use of lighting effects allowed to destroy the unity of the whole, or the sense of the plane of the wall.

The stories are told with a wealth of circumstantial and colourful detail: for instance the allusion to the Pope's decision to declare 1450 a Jubilee Year is shown by the two soldiers about to break down the walled-up door on the left but even a detail of this kind is never intrusive or merely included for decorative richness, but is at the heart of the narrative.

In the early Church, Saint Sixtus was the most highly venerated Pope after St. Peter. His name is included in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

Sixtus converted to Christianity as an adult. He served as a deacon in Rome before he was consecrated as Pope on August 30, 257. Sixtus was the Pope for less than a year, before he was martyred. During his short reign he dealt with the controversy of Baptisms performed by heretics. His conclusion was that if a person had a sincere desire to be baptized, he was validly baptized despite the errors of the person performing the sacrament.

In the first three centuries of the existence of the Catholic Church, most of the Popes were martyred. Before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which granted religious tolerance to Christians, there were ten major persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire. In 257, the Emperor Valerian directed a major persecution against Bishops, priests and deacons.

During this persecution, Christians held their sacred assemblies in subterranean caverns called catacombs. These assemblies were expressly forbidden by Valerian. But Christians chose to obey the law of God, rather than the law of man. Pope Sixtus was seized while offering Mass at the catacombs of Praetextatus along the Appian Way. Sixtus was probably immediately beheaded after his arrest on August 6, 258. Some say that St. Sixtus was beheaded while still seated in the chair from which he had been addressing his flock. Others say that he was taken away for examination and returned to the scene for execution. Two deacons (Felicissimus and Agapitus), and subdeacons (Januarius, Magnus, Stephanus, and Vincentius) were killed on the same day.

Four days later St. Lawrence was martyred. According to legend, Sixtus met St. Lawrence on the way to his execution and predicted that Lawrence would follow him in a few days, but the legend cannot be verified. Saint Sixtus was buried at the nearby catacomb of Saint Callistus. Callistus was one of the predecessors of Sixtus who had also been martyred. The Christians enshrined the bloodstained chair, on which Saint Sixtus was beheaded, behind his tomb.

 

 

 


St. Lawrence giving alms


Fra Angelico, St. Lawrence giving alms, (detail), Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

In the fresco Saint Lawrence Giving Alms, the artist consciously compares the saint to Christ. Clearly written on the pectoral of his red dalmatic, which is emblazoned with mystical flames, are the letters: JHESVS CHRISTVS. He is shown enclosed within the apse of a superb basilica, the Catholic church, and his heart is superimposed over the place of the altar. Douglas considered this fresco the greatest of all Fra Angelico's works, the fitting climax of his whole career. "It is the complete and final expression in art of both the artistic and religious creeds of some of the best men of the early quattrocento."[2]
The touching portrayals of the poor, blind, and maimed in this fresco directly recall Masaccio's great painting, Saint Peter Healing with His Shadow, in the Brancacci Chapel. Indeed, numerous passages in the Chapel of Nicholas V reveal Fra Angelico turning for inspiration to this Florentine antecedent, which was dedicated to the same theme, the Roman papacy. Although critics are wont to praise the correct perspective of the various church naves depicted in these paintings, the relationship of Angelico's figures to this architecture is much the same as in the frescoes of Masaccio and Masolino, a generation earlier. Many of these fine views function mainly as symbolic backdrop. The contrast with the expansive and consistent treatment of space in the San Marco Altarpiece, for example, could hardly be more pronounced, considering the late date. In view of Nicholas V's fascination with paleo-Christian culture, it is likely that Fra Angelico took the opportunity to study the same late classical mosaics that Masaccio had drawn upon for the Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel.

Fra Angelico's delicate vision appears to have been a bit overwhelmed by the vastness and imposing scale of Rome and its monuments. In order to become more consistent with the most modern style that was then the vogue in Rome, Fra Angelico attempted to imbue his scenes with Roman monumental classicism.
The fresco Saint Lawrence Giving Alms, was erraneously attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli. However, it is a work by Fra Angelico with coworkers.

 

Frescoes on the east wall of the Cappella Niccolina


 
The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the lives of the archdeacons Stephen (lunette) and Lawrence (bottom register).

On the east wall the narratives run parallel. To the left in the lunette St Stephen is being led to his martyrdom, and to the right we see him being stoned to death. In the lower register Lawrence is first condemned by Emperor Valerian, then in the adjacent scene he is martyred by being roasted on a gridiron. Between these is an auxiliary motif, seen through a small window, showing the conversion of St Hyppolitus, the chief jailer.

 

Lunette of the east wall

Fra Angelico, Lunette of the east wall, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The lunette represents two scenes: St Stephen being led to His Martyrdom and the Stoning of St Stephen.

Stephen had been blessed by the Apostles and was the first to be ordained as deacon. Accused of blasphemy, he was stoned to death in Jerusalem. According to legend his remains were taken to Rome in the fifth century and buried beside those of St Lawrence.

This lunette is divided in two by the monumental city wall which forms a natural part of both the scenes portrayed. The soft hills strewn with collections of towers and houses are in Angelico's familiar landscape style. All lit from the same source, the lunette has a complete spatial unity.

On the left St Stephen, having incurred the wrath of the council, is dragged to the city gate and meets his fate outside it as the first Christian martyr. On the right he is portrayed at prayer. Around him are the stones which have bloodied his face; two more bounce off the back of his head; one of his executioners raises another one high, about to strike again, and holds more in his robe. Saul, who was a consenting witness to the execution, is shown, following the details given in the Acts of the Apostles, as a young man holding part of Stephen's clothes which had been laid at his feet by the witnesses.


St Stephen being led to His Martyrdom


Fra Angelico, St Stephen being led to His Martyrdom, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The scene St Stephen being led to His Martyrdom is the left half the lunette on the east wall.
 
 

Stoning of St Stephen

Fra Angelico, Stoning of St Stephen, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The Stoning of St Stephen, first martyr of Christianity, is the right half the lunette on the east wall. The left half depicts St Stephen being led to his martyrdom.

In this scene he is portrayed at prayer following the description that 'he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' (Apostles 8, v. 60). Around him are the stones which have bloodied his face; two more bounce off the back of his head; one of his executioners raises another one high, about to strike again, and holds more in his robe. Saul, who was a consenting witness to the execution, is shown, following the details given in the Acts of the Apostles, as a young man holding part of Stephen's clothes which had been laid at his feet by the witnesses.

 
 

The Condemnation of St Lawrence by the Emperor Valerian



Fra Angelico, Condemnation of St Lawrence by the Emperor Valerian, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The Condemnation of St Lawrence by the Emperor Valerian is the left half the fresco below the lunette on the east wall. The right half depicts the martyrdom of St Lawrence. The two are linked by the cornice which, although it changes in its detailing, is essentially common to both scenes.

The composition of Condemnation of St Lawrence by the Emperor Valerian owes much to Angelico's earlier sacra conversazione. The wall broken into sections by pilasters, hung with a rich ornamental curtain and incorporating a lofty architectural throne, is familiar from the Annalena altarpiece of a couple of years before. Various soldiers and city worthies stand in a circle before the Emperor, helping to create a sense of depth without the assistance of any converging orthogonals in the foreground.

 
 

Martyrdom of St Lawrence



Fra Angelico, The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

 

The vault


In the vaults of the chapel, the Evangelists are suspended on clouds, amid the starry blue heavens. Their luminous faces and pale garments seem suffused with incandescent light as they compose the Gospels of Christ's life.

Fra Angelico, The vault, Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
   

The vault of the rectangular chapel is divided by ribbing into four vanes, one for each of the four Evangelists. The restoration has revealed the superb quality of these four figures, especially the Saint Luke, shown with his attribute of an ox, who is rendered with refined tints and miniaturist delicacy more to be expected in a painting on panel than in a wall fresco. The Evangelists are shown against an azure dome of heaven made precious by golden stars. It was traditional to represent Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John on the vault of a chapel as a sign of the divine origin of their Gospels. In the four corners of the chapel Fra Angelico painted standing figures of eight saints and doctors of the Church, whose authority thus descends directly from God.

The contributions made by Benozzo Gozzoli and by Fra Angelico's other assistants in the Chapel of Nicholas V have generally been assigned too much importance. Many of the heads ascribed to Gozzoli in the past can now be seen, thanks to the restoration still in progress, to have been painted by the master. Moreover, it seems clear that Gozzoli was employed to execute Fra Angelico's designs and not to impress his own personality on any part of the program.

Address: Viale Vaticano, Roma
Metro stop: Ottaviano or San Pietro 00193 Vatican City
Visit the Niccoline chapel by special request. The Niccoline chapel is not generally open to the public.


[1] The Niccoline Chapel is located in the Tower of Innocent III, in the most ancient part of the Apostolic Palace. The name is derived from its patron, Pope Nicholas V, who had it built for use as his private chapel.

The scenes of St. Stephen follow the Golden Legend, while those of St. Laurence are patterned after the older cycles in the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, where he is buried. Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew, one of the first deacons named in Jerusalem by St. Peter - Ordination of St Stephen with St Stephen distributing Alms (lunette). His prayers (The Prayer of St. Stephen) earned him the hostility of his opponents in the city, who eventually stoned him to death in front of the city gate.

Laurence was a deacon (Ordination of St Laurence) to whom Pope Sixtus II had entrusted the Church's treasure in order to give it to the Roman emperor Valerian (St. Lawrence Receiving the Treasures of the Church). Lawrence instead divided it between the poor (St Laurence distributing Alms), for which act he was martyred. The frescoes underline the similarities in the two figures' lives: both are ordained deacons, both give alms to the poor and both are martyred after a courageous declaration of faith. The choice of these two figures also shows the connection between the Churches of Jerusalem and the Rome.

The frescoes, full of fine architectural details, allude also to Nicholas V's desire to rebuild Rome as the new capital city of Christianity. The large walls in the Martyrdom of St. Stephen hint at the rebuilding of Rome's walls. Further, the schism in the Jewish community in Jerusalem can be compared to the Christian schism witnessed by Nicholas (who is portrayed in the frescoes as his predecessor, Sixtus II).

[1] The artist and Dominican friar posthumously called Fra Angelico was known for most of his life as Fra Giovanni, the name he chose when he joined the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole. Not long after his death in 1455, he was praised as "the Angelic Painter," elevating him to the status of the great Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas, called the "Angelic Doctor." His life and work have been celebrated for centuries, yet only recently has Fra Angelico's fundamental importance in the development of European painting been fully appreciated. Paralleling the achievements of the slightly younger Masaccio (1401–ca. 1428), Fra Angelico pioneered many of the stylistic trends that distinguish the early Renaissance, including the rational treatment of pictorial space and the volumetric modeling of forms with light and shadow. At every stage of his career, in fact, Fra Angelico remained at the forefront of artistic innovation in Florence.

Born in the Mugello about 1390–95 and named Guido di Pietro, Fra Angelico probably received part of his artistic training in the workshop of Lorenzo Monaco (active 1390–1423), a Camaldolese monk and the leading painter and manuscript illuminator in Florence prior to his death. Unfinished drawings cut from a choir book for the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli may show some of Angelico's activity during this apprenticeship with the older artist (1999.391; Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen). Although Lorenzo Monaco executed the central narrative scenes, the closely observed plant forms that cover the initial letters reveal a level of naturalism foreign to his style. Instead, these curling acanthus leaves and open flowers, shaded and foreshortened for realistic effect, resemble the scrolling foliate patterns found on the engraved haloes and brocaded draperies in Angelico's slightly later panel paintings. The young artist's hand has also been detected in fragments from a pilgrimage roll-a kind of spiritual guide and travel manual-illustrating a journey to the Holy Land made by the Dominican lay brother Petrus de Cruce in 1417. The strong modeling of figures and spatial organization seen in two of the fragments (1972.118.260; Pushkin Museum, Moscow) may provide further evidence of Fra Angelico moving beyond the Late Gothic manner and technique of Lorenzo Monaco.

A document of 1418 recording payment to Angelico for a lost work confirms that by then his career as an independent artist was already underway. At some point between 1418 and 1422 he joined the Observant community of San Domenico in Fiesole. Many of Angelico's commissions during this period came from Dominican institutions, which used his skill as an artist to advance the order's preaching work. He painted three altarpieces for his own convent, including the principal altarpiece of the church, depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints and angels (San Domenico, Fiesole). While the subject and format of San Domenico's high altarpiece were traditional, Angelico's novel arrangement of figures in the central panel to establish a nichelike space around the Madonna became a model studied by a number of contemporary artists, possibly including Masaccio. In 1501, the triptych was restructured to conform to current tastes. At a still later date, the original framing elements were dismantled, removing the panels painted with holy figures, such as the half-length Saint Alexander (1991.27.2) that occupied part of the left pilaster.

Dated on the basis of style to the same early phase of Angelico's career, the panel depicting the Crucifixion in the Metropolitan Museum (43.98.5) seems to be the artist's only signed work. The wealth of descriptive detail in the clothing and armor of the carefully foreshortened soldiers typifies Angelico's approach to narrative painting. The subject, shape, and proportions of this panel, as well as the low viewing angle from which we see the underside of Christ's garment, indicate that it may have once formed the pinnacle over the central panel of an altarpiece.

Masaccio's groundbreaking use of mathematical perspective and his sculptural treatment of the human figure during the mid- and late 1420s powerfully affected Florentine art. Angelico adapted some of the younger painter's innovations to refine his own advances toward the depiction of three-dimensional forms in logically constructed spatial settings. Following Masaccio's premature death around 1428, Angelico emerged as the city's most modern and sought-after artist. As his clientele quickly expanded beyond the Dominican community over the following ten years, he completed a large number of altarpieces, private devotional works, and fresco commissions. The allegorical figure of Justice in the Robert Lehman Collection (1975.1.264) may have been part of a model book used in Angelico's workshop during this extremely active period. For medieval and early Renaissance artists, model books provided a repertoire of designs and preparatory studies that could be used to demonstrate the master's style and technique to his assistants.

In 1435, the Dominican community in Fiesole to which Fra Angelico belonged took possession of the convent of San Marco in Florence. The climax of his artistic career came three years later with the commission from Cosimo de' Medici to fresco the cloister, chapter house, refectory, and dormitory cells and corridors of the renovated convent. The Medici also chose Angelico to provide a painting for the high altar of the convent church, over which they had recently acquired patronage rights. In the resulting work (Museo di San Marco, Florence), Angelico again handled a conventional subject-the Madonna and Child enthroned with angels and saints-in a strikingly new and original manner. Abandoning the traditional Gothic altarpiece format that divided the Madonna and attendant saints into arched compartments, Angelico brought the figures together in a single square picture field, called a pala quadrata, and against a naturalistic landscape background. The unified spatial setting of the main panel and the depiction of the architecture in the narrative predella scenes demonstrate Angelico's expert understanding of perspective.

Occupied with the extensive project at San Marco between 1438 and 1443, Fra Angelico produced relatively few independent panel paintings during this span. He moved to Rome in 1445 where, over the next four years, he frescoed a number of chapels in the Vatican Palace for Pope Eugenius IV and his successor Nicholas V. All that survives of this activity are the scenes from the lives of Saint Stephen and Lawrence in the Capella Niccolina, painted in 1447–48. Angelico served a two-year term as prior of his convent in Fiesole before returning to Rome in 1453. The damaged panel showing Christ on the Cross and various saints (14.40.628) dates to this final phase of the artist's life, and, together with three other panels (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; and private collection), may have formed the predella of an altarpiece that Angelico is said to have painted for the high altar of the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, where he was buried after his death in 1455.
Ross Finocchio, Robert Lehman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art | www.metmuseum.org


[3] D. E. Cole, Fra Angelico: His Role in Quattrocento Paintings and problems of Chronology, Diss, Univ of Virginia, 1977, pp. 95-96.

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Giorgio Vasari | Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, Fra Angelico | Detailed biography of the artist

 


Tuscany is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Known for its enchanting landscapes, its fantastic and genuine food and beautiful towns as Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Siena. The strategical geographical position in southern Tuscany will give you the opportunity of arriving in Siena and other important cities of art in Tuscany, such as San Gimignano, Volterra and Massa Marittima. Podere Santa Pia is located in the heart of the Valle d'Ombrone, and one can easily reach some of the most beautiful attractions of Tuscany, such as Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano and San Quirico d'Orcia, famous for their artistic heritage, wine, olive oil production and gastronomic traditions. It is the ideal place to enjoy the beauty of Tuscany – both its cuisine and its historical towns – and to pass a very relaxing holiday in contemplation of nature, with the advantage of tasting the most typical dishes of Tuscan cuisine and its best wines.
The extreme simplicity of Tuscan cuisine is its strongest strength, as the flavours that emerge during the cooking process are vibrant and pure. A little known fact about Tuscan cuisine is that the French learned how to cook from their Tuscan counterparts when it was imported by Catherine de' Medici into the court of Henry II. The Tuscan style of cooking is richly flavoured and wholesome. With its original kitchen and the wood burning pizza oven, Casa Santa Pia offers an upbeat atmosphere.

 
         

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Podere Santa Pia
 
Podere Santa Pia, garden view, April
 
The Maremma and Monte Christo,
view from the terrace

 
Montalcino
San Marco in Florence

 
Montalcino
Villa La Foce
Colle di Val d'Elsa
Florence, San Miniato al Monte
Colle Val d'Esa
Villa di Geggiano

Florence, San Miniato al Monte
         
The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums contain a vast store of artworks which range from the ancient to the contemporary, including the world famous Sistine Chapel. Touring the Vatican Museums can easily take two hours or more, so it is imperative that you have an action plan when you visit. Here is a list of the top attractions to look for when you visit the Vatican Museums. For a complete list, visit the Vatican Museums website.

1. The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is one of the main attractions to visit in Vatican City. The highlight of a visit to the Vatican Museums, the famous chapel contains ceiling and altar frescoes by Michelangelo and is considered one of the artist's greatest achievements. But the chapel contains more than just works by Michelangelo; it is decorated from floor to ceiling by some of the most famous names in Renaissance painting.
The Sistine Chapel is the last room that visitors see when touring the Vatican Museums.

The grand chapel that is known around the world as the Sistine Chapel was built from 1475-1481 at the behest of Pope Sixtus IV (the Latin name Sixtus, or Sisto (Italian), lending its name to "Sistine"). The monumental room measures 40.23 meters long by 13.40 meters wide (134 by 44 feet) and reaches 20.7 meters (about 67.9 feet) above the ground at its highest point. The floor is inlaid with polychrome marble and the room contains an altar, a small choristers' gallery, and a six-paneled marble screen that divides the room into areas for clergy and congregants. There are eight windows lining the upper reaches of the walls.
Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling and the altar are the most famous paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II commissioned the master artist to paint these parts of the chapel in 1508, some 25 years after the walls had been painted by the likes of Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Pinturrichio, and others.

2. The Raphael Rooms
Raphael worked on the mesmerizing frescoes in these four rooms – the apartments of Pope Julius II – while Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel. The paintings include several significant scenes from Christian history. The most famous room of all is the Room of the Segnatura, in which Raphael painted The School of Athens, a scene that incorporates the likenesses of Raphael's artistic contemporaries, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

3. The Borgia Apartments
The artist Pinturicchio painted the rich frescoes in the Borgia Apartments, the area on the first floor where Pope Alexander VI lived. The rich, colorful frescoes depict scenes from Egyptian and Greek mythology and speak to lavishness of the Vatican Palace.

4. The Gallery of Maps
This incredible hall has maps frescoed on both walls showing various parts of Italy from the 16th century. These historically significant frescoes of the Italian cities, the countryside, and geographical features, such as the Apennine Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, are a joy to inspect, as is the gallery's sumptuously decorated coffered ceiling.

5. The Cappella Nicolina
Some of the most beautiful and vibrant 15th century frescoes, painted by Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli, are in the diminutive Niccoline Chapel. Named for Pope Nicholas V, who worshipped here, this chapel is located in one of the oldest parts of the papal palace.

6. Greek and Roman Antiquities
The Pio-Clementine and the Gregorian Profane Museums are dedicated to treasures of antiquity. Highlights include the Apollo del Belvedere, "a supreme ideal" of classical art; the Laocoön, a large marble composition from 1st century A.D.; the Belvedere Torso, a Greek sculpture from the 1st century B.C.; the Discus Thrower, a 5th century B.C. representation of an discus athlete in movement; and a collection of Roman mosaics.