Monday, July 13, 2009


Title: Transfiguration

Artist: Fra Angelico

Medium: Fresco

Size: 93 x 164 cm

Date: 1440-41

Location: Convento di San Marco, Florence.

As described in Matthew 17:1-5: “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” This fresco, located on the wall of Cell 6 in the convent of San Marco, Florence, is one in a series created by Angelico to decorate the cloister, chapter house, and entrances to the 20 cells on the upper corridors.

Christ stands on a rock with his arms outstretched, prefiguring his own crucifixion and his rising from the tomb. He is voluminously clad in a sculptural mass of glowing white robe, and encircled by a radiant white mandorla. At the edge of the fresco, on either side, stand the Virgin and St Dominic in positions indicative of prayer, stern and unresponsive to events around them. The heads of Moses and Elijah appear as well, as detached symbols to aid meditation. There is no attempt to create any more than the bare essentials of picture and space which could detract from the image’s power.

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – February 18, 1455), was a Florentine painter as well as a Dominican friar, having entered a Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1418. He became known as Giovanni da Fiesole, as well as Fra Giovanni Angelico (Brother Giovanni the Angelic One). Although his teacher is unknown, he apparently began his career as an illuminator of missals and other religious books, and then began to paint altarpieces and other panels. In later life he traveled extensively for prestigious commissions.

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