mercredi 18 février 2015

Bienheureux FRA GIOVANNI ANGELICO da FIESOLE, prêtre dominicain et confesseur



Bienheureux Fra Angelico, prêtre

Guido di Piero est né en Toscane à la fin du XIVème siècle. Adolescent, il va à Florence où il apprend à peindre, mais c'est la vie religieuse qui l'attire. Avec son frère Benoît, il entre au couvent des Dominicains de Fiesole où il reçoit le nom de Jean. Ordonné prêtre, il devient le prieur du couvent de Fiesole où il peint plusieurs retables. Puis on l'envoie au couvent Saint Marc de Florence pour le décorer. Il y couvre de fresques le cloître, la salle du chapitre, les cellules et les couloirs du dortoir. Il décore aussi les murs de deux chapelles dans la basilique Saint-Pierre du Vatican, puis la chapelle privée du pape. Il est simple et droit, pauvre et humble. Il meurt en 1455, à Rome, au couvent de Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Frère Jean de saint Dominique, passé à l’histoire sous le nom de Fra Angelico, sut créer l’harmonie entre l’art de la Renaissance naissante et la pureté de cœur d’un vrai chercheur de Dieu.

Bienheureux Fra Angelico

Frère prêcheur italien et peintre ( 1455)

Confesseur. 

Guido est né en Toscane. Adolescent, il va à Florence où il apprend à peindre, mais c'est la vie religieuse qui l'attire. Les deux ne sont pas incompatibles. Avec son frère Benoît, il entre au couvent des Dominicains de Fiesole où il reçoit le nom de Jean. Ordonné prêtre, il devient le prieur du couvent de Fiesole où il peint plusieurs retables. Puis on l'envoie au couvent Saint Marc de Florence pour le décorer. Il y couvre de fresques le cloître, la salle du chapitre, les cellules et les couloirs du dortoir. Il décore aussi les murs de deux chapelles dans Saint Pierre de Rome au Vatican, puis la chapelle privée du Pape. "Quiconque fait les choses du Christ, doit être tout entier au Christ" aime à dire frère Jean de Fiesole qu'on appelle aussi Fra Angelico. Il est simple et droit, pauvre et humble. 
Ses tableaux témoignent de sa ferveur. Ils s'éclairent et nous éclairent de la lumière divine qui l'habite et qui lui valut ce surnom. 

Une légende veut que les anges qu'il avait peints, pleurèrent ce jour-là. 

Le Pape Jean-Paul II a accordé son culte liturgique en 1982 à l'Ordre des Frères Prêcheurs et en a fait le patron des artistes.

À Rome, en 1455, le bienheureux Jean de Fiesole, surnommé l’Angélique, prêtre de l’Ordre des Prêcheurs, qui, toujours attaché au Christ, exprima dans sa peinture ce qu’il contemplait intérieurement, pour élever l’esprit des hommes vers les réalités d’en-haut.



Martyrologe romain

Comme je le disais à Rome en proclamant le bienheureux Fra Angelico patron des artistes, “en lui la foi est devenue culture, et la culture est devenue foi vécue . . . En lui l’art devient prière” 

IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Homilia occasione oblata celebrationis iubilaei artificum in basilica S. Mariae supra Minervam, 2, die18 feb. 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 (1984) 430


Bienheureux Fra Angelico da Fiesole († 1455)

S'il fallait un exemple pour faire comprendre comment la grâce sait s'appuyer sur la nature, ici le don de peindre, c'est bien l'oeuvre d'un Fra Angelico qui pourrait le faire comprendre. Guido di Pietro, né vers 1400 en Toscane, doit sa première formation artistique à un atelier d'enluminure. Vers l'âge de vingt ans, il entre au couvent observant de San Domenico de Fiesole, sur cette hauteur embaumée qui surplombe Florence.

Lorsque les dominicains prennent possession du couvent de Saint-Marc, les Médicis, en puissants mécènes, proposent de financer une nouvelle église. C'est Fra Angelico qui est chargé de décorer les bâtiments conventuels sous la direction de son maître, le futur archevêque de Florence, saint Antonin. Il est appelé à Rome par les papes Eugène IV et Nicolas V. Il travaille beaucoup, retourne à Fiesole puis de nouveau à Rome où il meurt en 1455, sans avoir eu le temps d'achever les fresques du cloître de Sainte-Marie de la Minerve où il repose, non loin du tombeau de sainte Catherine de Sienne.

Les historiens de l'art n'ont pas cessé d'interroger son oeuvre picturale, plus énigmatique que sa lumineuse limpidité ne le ferait supposer de prime abord. Si on s'attache moins maintenant à montrer dans le détail sa conformité à la théologie thomiste - comme si la Somme pouvait être illustrée -, on admire la manière dont cette peinture se penche sur le mystère de l'Incarnation et de la Rédemption, et comment la lumière délicate qu'elle irradie, manifeste le renouvellement du monde dans le Christ. C'est bien cela qui est conforme à la théologie de saint Thomas d'Aquin.

L'alliage que fait Fra Angelico du jeu des couleurs, des décors et des attitudes, de l'ordre et d'une certaine dissemblance - comme l'a montré récemment l'historien de l'art Georges Didi-Huberman -, du réalisme de la terre et des beautés du ciel, du concret et de l'abstrait, lui permet de suggérer la transfiguration de la nature. Cette lecture théologique de l'oeuvre peut s'accompagner d'une lecture dominicaine en quelque sorte. En effet à San Marco, à Fiesole, terre dominicaine, Fra Angelico répond aux besoins des communautés observantes auxquelles il appartient. Car, et en cela il est bien encore médiéval, Fra Angelico ne conçoit pas de dissociation entre le beau et le fonctionnel.

Il s'agit pour le peintre dominicain de rappeler à ses frères qui vont vivre, étudier, prier, dormir, manger, déambuler, le sens de ce qu'ils font, et comment leur prière, leur pénitence et toute leur existence doivent être polarisées par les mystères du salut, qu'en outre, par profession, ils devront prêcher. Ce que Fra Angelico nous propose, ce sont des homélies picturales, et c'est bien l'idéal, sous des formes et des intuitions évidemment différentes, de tout artiste dominicain. (Source : Quilici, Alain; Bedouelle, Guy. Les frères prêcheurs autrement dits Dominicains. Le Sarment/Fayard, 1997)



Jean-Paul II évoque le bienheureux Fra Angelico, patron des artistes

18 février 2004

CITE DU VATICAN, MERCREDI 18 février 2004 (ZENIT.org) – Jean-Paul II a évoqué le bienheureux Fra Angelico, patron des artistes, en saluant à la fin de l’audience générale de ce mercredi les représentant de l’Union catholique italienne des Artistes.



Le pape leur indiquait comme "modèle" le bienheureux peintre de Fiesole dont l’Eglise célèbre aujourd’hui la mémoire liturgique, tandis que la France, et Lourdes en particulier, fête sainte Bernadette.



"Que l’exemple et l’intercession de cet humble disciple de saint Dominique soient pour vous, chers jeunes, ajoutait le pape, un encouragement à vivre fidèlement votre vocation chrétienne".

Aux malades, le pape disait: "Que le bienheureux Angelico vous aide, chers malades, à offrir vos souffrances en union avec celles du Christ pour le salut de l’humanité".

"Qu’il vous soutienne, chers jeunes mariés, concluait le pape, dans votre engagement quotidien à la fidélité réciproque".

Le bienheureux frère dominicain italien Angelico de Fiesole (1377-1435) s’appelait à son baptême Jean. Il est né dans la province de Mugello, près de Florence. Il est devenu dominicain à Fiesole en 1407. Il résida quelque temps au couvent Saint-Marc de florence où il a orné les cellules de ses frères de fresques représentant des scènes de la vie du Christ: un véritable Evangile médité. Il est mort au couvent de la Minerve, à Rome, où il repose après avoir peint de nombreux autres chefs d’œuvres inspirés.

Il a été béatifié en 1982 par Jean-Paul II qui l’a donné comme saint patron aux artistes en 1984.


(18 février 2004) © Innovative Media Inc.


Né à Vicchio (Toscane), Guido di Pietro, dit en religion Fra Angelico, est né en Toscane. Il entre dans un couvent de dominicains observants à Fiesole, près de Florence, en 1418. Vers 1425, il devient moine et prend le nom de Fra Giovanni. Il commence sa carrière comme enlumineur de missels et d'autres ouvrages religieux dans le scriptorium de son couvent. Dès 1418, il collabore au chantier de décoration de Santo Stefano al Ponte. Parmi ses premières œuvres importantes figurent la Madone de l'étoile (v. 1428-1433, San Marco, Florence), le Christ en gloire entouré de saints et d'anges (The National Gallery, Londres) et l’Annonciation destinée à l’église San Domenico à Fiesole (1430-1432, musée du Prado, Madrid). Parmi d'autres œuvres de cette période, on trouve le Couronnement de la Vierge (Louvre, Paris) dans lequel se décèle une réflexion plastique sur la notion d'espace et de perspective en relation avec la hiérarchie ecclésiastique. La représentation du mystère pour l'Angelico ne peut se réduire à une simple figuration, car la finalité de la peinture, objet matériel en soi, est contradictoire avec le désir de représenter l'immatériel absolu, c'est-à-dire le divin.

En 1436, les dominicains de Fiesole s'installent au couvent Saint-Marc à Florence, récemment reconstruit par Michelozzo. L'Angelico, aidé parfois d'assistants, peint de nombreuses fresques pour le cloître, le chapitre, et une vingtaine de cellules du premier étage. Ce vaste programme iconographique présente la caractéristique d’être pensé de manière globale, et l'on trouve dans certaines fresques des éléments qui répondent ou approfondissent des questions traitées dans d'autres. Son retable pour San Marco (v. 1439) est l'une des premières représentations de la Conversation sacrée : la Vierge est entourée d'anges et de saints qui semblent partager un espace commun.

La peinture de l'Angelico est profondément liée aux réflexions théologiques menées à l'époque autour de l'œuvre de saint Thomas d'Aquin par les dominicains florentins, sous la direction de l'évêque Antonin.

En 1445, Angelico est appelé à Rome par le pape Eugène IV pour peindre à fresque la chapelle du Saint-Sacrement du Vatican, aujourd'hui détruite. En 1447, avec son élève Bennozo Gozzoli, il peint des fresques pour la cathédrale d'Orvieto. Ses dernières œuvres importantes sont les fresques de la chapelle Nicoline au Vatican, qui représentent des Scènes de la vie d'Étienne et de Laurent (1447-1449), dont l'iconographie tire sa source de la somme hagiographique de Jacques de Voragine.

« Fra Giovanni fut un homme simple et de mœurs très saintes. Un fait peut témoigner de sa pureté : un matin, le pape Nicolas V l’invita à déjeuner ; il se fit un scrupule d’accepter de la viande sans permission de son prieur, oubliant tout à fait l’autorité du Pontife. Il évita toutes les agitations du siècle, vivant dans la pureté et la simplicité, et je pense qu’il aimait les pauvres comme son âme doit maintenant aimer le ciel. Il ne cessa de pratiquer la peinture et ne voulut jamais faire que des sujets religieux. Il aurait pu être riche et ne s’en soucia point ; il disait même souvent que la véritable richesse est de savoir se contenter de peu. Il aurait pu gouverner et ne le voulut point, disant qu’il y avait moins de risque d’erreur dans l’obéissance. Il ne dépendait que de lui de recevoir des honneurs parmi ses frères et au-dehors, mais il les dédaigna, affirmant qu’il ne désirait d’autre honneur que de fuir l’enfer et tendre au paradis. Y a-t-il, en vérité, honneur comparable à celui-là, que devraient rechercher non seulement les religieux, mais tous les hommes, et qui ne s’acquiert qu’en Dieu et par la pratique d’une vie vertueuse ? Il fut d’une profonde humanité, sobre, menant une vie chaste, et échappa ainsi aux pièges du monde. Il disait souvent que pour s’adonner à son art, il fallait une vie calme et sans soucis, et que si l’on travaillait pour le Christ, il fallait vivre sans cesse près du Christ. Jamais les frères ne l’ont vu en colère, ce qui est admirable et semble presque impossible à croire ; il avait coutume d’admonester ses amis avec un simple sourire. Avec une gentillesse incroyable, il disait à tous ceux qui lui demandaient une œuvre de se mettre d’accord avec le prieur, et qu’ensuite il ne manquerait pas de les satisfaire. Ce père que l’on ne louera jamais assez fut en somme dans ses actions et dans ses paroles toute humilité et modestie, et dans sa peinture d’une piété sans complication ; nul autre n’offre des saints qui aient autant l’air de saints. Il ne retoucha et ne transforma jamais aucune de ses peintures, mais les laissa toujours comme elles lui étaient venues du premier jet ; il croyait, disait-il, que telle était la volonté de Dieu. Fra Giovanni, dit-on, n’aurait jamais touché ses pinceaux sans avoir auparavant récité une prière. S’il peignait un crucifix, c’était toujours les joues baignées de larmes. C’est pourquoi l’on reconnaît aux visages et aux attitudes de ses figures la pureté de sa foi sincère et profonde en la religion chrétienne. » (“Les Vies des meilleurs peintres, sculpteurs et architectes” de Giorgio Vasari)

De 1449 à 1452, Angelico est prieur de son couvent à Fiesole.

Il meurt dans un couvent dominicain de Rome, le 18 mars 1455.




Bienheureux Jean de Fiesole   -   Fra Angelico

Nom: GIOVANNI DE FIESOLE

Prénom: Jean de Fiesole (Giovanni de Fiesole)
Nom de religion: Angelico
Pays: Italie
Naissance: 1400  près de Florence
Mort: 18.02.1455  à Rome
Etat: Prêtre - Dominicain

Note: Peintre du couvent St Marc à Florence et de la Minerve, à Rome où il meurt. Béatifié par Jean Paul II par Motu Proprio du 03.10.1982, mais rendu public une année plus tard! - Proclamé Patron des artistes le 18.02.1984.

Béatification: 03.10.1982  à Rome  par Jean Paul II
Canonisation:
Fête: 18 février

Réf. dans l’Osservatore Romano: 1984 n.7 p.13 – n.9 p.1.9 – n.11 p.12
Réf. dans la Documentation Catholique: 1984 p.3

Notice

Guido naît vers 1400 aux environs de Florence. Après avoir appris le métier de peintre et de miniaturiste, vers 1420 il entre dans l'Ordre des Frères Prêcheurs au couvent de Fiesole. Il y reçoit le nom de Giovanni (Jean) et a pour prieur et pour maître saint Antonin, le futur archevêque de Florence. Il étudie la théologie à Foligno et à Cortone où il est ordonné prêtre. Sa formation religieuse terminée, Fra Giovanni reprend son ancien métier. Sa grande œuvre est la décoration du couvent Saint-Marc de Florence (1439-1445) dont les dominicains réformés venaient de faire l'acquisition. Il est ensuite Prieur à Fiesole et à partir de 1445, il vit surtout à Rome, appelé par le Pape qui lui confie divers travaux au Vatican. C'est à Rome qu'il meurt le 18 février 1455; il est enseveli dans l'église dominicaine de Sainte-Marie-de-la-Minerve. La qualité spirituelle de son œuvre picturale, où il sut faire passer la ferveur et la paix de sa vie contemplative, et sa réputation de sainteté lui valurent bientôt le surnom d'Angelico. N'aimait-il pas à répéter: "Quiconque fait les choses du Christ doit être tout entier au Christ"? Le 3 octobre 1982, le Pape Jean Paul II autorise l'Ordre des Prêcheurs à rendre un culte au bienheureux Angelico et le 18 février 1984 il le déclara patron des artistes, spécialement des peintres.



 Fra Angelico  (circa 1395 –1455). Armadio degli argenti, vers 1450,


Angélique et génial

Le saint patron des peintres - (Anita Bourdin - Zenit.org)
Le martyrologe romain fait mémoire, le 18 février, du bienheureux prêtre dominicain, peintre de la Renaissance italienne, Fra Angelico, prêtre (†1455).

Jean de Fiesole est cet "angélique" peintre dont Jean-Paul II a dit qu'il avait écrit avec son pinceau une "somme" théologique. Il était né à Vecchio, et il reçut au baptême le nom de Guido. Attiré de bonne heure par lavie religieuse, Guido entre chez les Frères prêcheurs à Florence: il reçoit le nom de frère Jean, "Fra Giovanni". Dès lors, il ne cesse de peindre tout en étant économe, vicaire, prieur.

Il peindra les fameuses fresques du couvent Saint-Marc de Florence, inspirées par les mystères de la vie du Christ, pour les cellules de ses frères dominicains, mais aussi la salle du chapitre, les couloirs, le parvis et le retable de l'autel de l'église. Et l'Annonciation si célèbre devant laquelle on ne saurait passer sans prier la Vierge Marie. Le pape Eugène IV le fit venir à Rome, en 1445, et il lui confia la mission de décorer un oratoire et la chapelle du Saint-Sacrement au Vatican.

De l'avis de ses frères dominicains, "Fra Angelico" fut un homme modeste et religieux, doux, pieux et honnête. Il s'éteignit à Rome le 18 février 1455 au couvent romain de Sainte-Marie-sur-la-Minerve où son corps repose aujourd'hui. Après sa mort, il reçut le surnom d'"Angelico", pour la beauté de sa peinture inspirée, pour sa bonté, et pour son élévation mystique dans la contemplation des mystères de la vie du Christ.

Son culte a été confirmé en 1982 par Jean-Paul II qui l'a ensuite proclamé saint patron des artistes et spécialement des peintres, le 18 février 1984, lors du Jubilé des artistes. Pour le bienheureux pape, Fra Angelico a été "un chant extraordinaire pour Dieu": "par toute sa vie, il a chanté la Gloire de Dieu qu'il portait comme un trésor au fond de son coeur et exprimait dans ses oeuvres d'art. Religieux, il a su transmettre par son art les valeurs typiques du style de vie chrétien. Il fut un "prophète" de l'image sacrée : il a su atteindre le sommet de l'art en s'inspirant des Mystères de la Foi".



"Sa vie fut un extraordinaire chant pour Dieu!".  
 Pape Jean-Paul II.
 
Il naquit à Vecchio, à la fin du quinzième siècle et reçut au Baptême le nom de Guido.

Attiré par la vie religieuse alors qu' il est encore un jeune adolescent, Guido entre chez les Frères prêcheurs dominicains qui, sur les hauteurs de Florence, aspirent à un renouveau spirituel de leur Ordre.

Le désormais "Fra Giovanni" ne cesse alors de peindre, tout en s' acquittant avec beaucoup de zèle des charges qui lui sont confiées : économe, vicaire, prieur.

Tandis qu' il vaquait aux différentes fonctions qui lui étaient assignées, sa renommée de peintre talentueux commença de se répandre. Dans le couvent saint Marc de Florence, le Frère donne la pleine mesure de son art : il décore les cellules, la salle du chapitre, les couloirs, le parvis et le retable de l' autel de l' église : aucun recoin n' échappe à son immense talent!

Le Pape Eugène IV fut tellement enthousiasmé par cette oeuvre qu' il le fit veni à Rome, en 1445, et lui confia la mission de décorer un oratoire et la chapelle du Saint-Sacrement au Vatican.

De l' avis de ses frères en religion, "Fra Angelico" fut un homme pleinement modeste et religieux, doux par l' esprit, honnête par la piété.

Il s' éteignit à Rome le 18 février 1455 dans le couvent de Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

C' est après sa mort qu' on le surnomma "Angelico", en raison de la bonté de son coeur et de la beauté de sa peinture par lesquelles il "chantait" la Gloire de Dieu comme les Anges du Ciel.

Le Pape Jean-Paul II le proclama "Patron des artistes" et spécialement des peintres, le 18 février 1984.

Ce jour-là, dans son homélie, le Saint-Père rappela que la vie de Fra Angelico "fut un extraordinaire "chant" pour Dieu". Par toute sa vie, il a chanté la Gloire de Dieu qu' il portait comme un trésor au fond de son coeur et exprimait dans ses oeuvres d' art... Il fut un religieux qui a su transmettre par son art, les valeurs qui sont à la base du style de vie chrétien. Il fut un "prophète" de l' image sacrée : il a su atteindre le sommet de l' art en s' inspirant des Mystères de la Foi".

En rencontrant des artistes, le Pape Benoit XVI disait :

"L' histoire de l' humanité est mouvement et ascension, elle est une tension inépuisable vers la plénitude, vers le Bonheur ultime, vers un horizon qui dépasse toujours le présent alors qu' il le traverse... La beauté, de celle qui se manifeste dans l' univers et dans la nature à celle qui s' exprime à travers les créations artistiques... peut devenir une voie vers le Transcendant, vers le Mystère ultime, vers Dieu".
(Pape Benoit XVI. Discours aux artistes du samedi 21 novembre 2009 à la Chapelle Sixtine).

Portons dans notre prière tous les artistes afin que, par leurs oeuvres, ils élèvent le monde vers Celui qui est la Beauté suprême, le Dieu qui, en Jésus, S' est montré à nous un Jour de notre histoire, pour le Salut du genre humain.

Bienheureux Fra Angelico,
prie pour nous et en particulier pour les artistes et
les peintres, afin qu' à travers leur art, ils aident les hommes de ce temps
à contempler le Dieu de Bonté et de Beauté qui S' est révélé en Jésus,
"le plus Beau des enfants des hommes"
qui est aussi la Grande Espérance qui soutient toute chose!
Amen




Fra Angelico

A famous painter of the Florentine school, born near Castello di Vicchio in the province of Mugello, Tuscany, 1387; died at Rome, 1455. He was christened Guido, and his father's name being Pietro he was known as Guido, or Guidolino, di Pietro, but his full appellation today is that of "Blessed Fra Angelico Giovanni da Fiesole". He and his supposed younger brother, Fra Benedetto da Fiesole, or da Mugello, joined the order of Preachers in 1407, entering the Dominican convent at Fiesole. Giovanni was twenty years old at the time the brothers began their art careers as illustrators of manuscripts, and Fra Benedetto, who had considerable talent as an illuminator and miniaturist, is supposed to have assisted his more celebrated brother in his famous frescoes in the convent of San Marco in Florence. Fra Benedetto was superior at San Dominico at Fiesole for some years before his death in 1448. Fra Angelico, who during a residence at Foligno had come under the influence of Giotto whose work at Assisi was within easy reach, soon graduated from the illumination of missals and choir books into a remarkably naive and inspiring maker of religious paintings, who glorified the quaint naturalness of his types with a peculiarly pious mysticism. He was convinced that to picture Christ perfectly one must need be Christlike, and Vasari says that he prefaced his paintings by prayer. His technical equipment was somewhat slender, as was natural for an artist with his beginnings, his work being rather thin dry and hard. His spirit, however, glorified his paintings. His noble holy figures, his beautiful angels, human but in form, robed with the hues of the sunrise and sunset, and his supremely earnest saints and martyrs are permeated with the sincerest of religious feeling. His early training in miniature and illumination had its influence in his more important works, with their robes of golden embroidery, their decorative arrangements and details, and pure, brilliant colours. As for the early studies in art of Fra Angelico, nothing is known. His painting shows the influence of the Siennese school, and it is thought he may have studied under Gherardo, Starnina, or Lorenzo Monaco.

On account of the struggle for the pontifical throne between Gregory XII, Benedict XIII, and Alexander V, Fra Giovanni and his brother, being adherents of the first named, had in 1409 to leave Fiesole, taking refuge in the convent of their order established at Foligno in Umbria. The pest devastating that place in 1414, the brothers went to Cortona, where they spent four years and then returned to Fiesole. There Fra Angelico remained for sixteen years. He was then invited to Florence to decorate the new Convent of San Marco which had just been allotted to his order, and of which Cosmo de' Medici was a munificent patron. At Cortona are found some of his best pictures. It was at Florence, however, where he spent nine years, that he painted his most important works. In 1445, Pope Eugenius IV invited Fra Angelico to Rome and gave him work to do in the Vatican, where he painted for him and for his successor, Pope Nicholas V, the frescoes of two chapels. That of the cappella del Sacramento, in the Vatican, was destroyed later by Paul III. Eugenius IV than asked him to go to Orvieto to work in the chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio in the cathedral. This work he began in 1447, but did not finish, returning to Rome in the autumn of that year. Much later the chapel was finished by Luca Signorelli. Pope Eugenius is said to have offered the painter the place of Archbishop of Florence, which through modesty and devotion to his art he declined. At Rome, besides his great paintings in the chapels of the Vatican, he executed some beautiful miniatures for choral books. He is buried in Rome in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Among the thirty works of Fra Angelico in the cloisters and chapter house of the convent of San Marco in Florence (which has been converted into a national museum) is notable the famous "Crucifixion", with the Saviour between the two thieves surrounded by a group of twenty saints, and with bust portraits of seventeen Dominican fathers below. Here is shown to the full the mastery of the painter in depicting in the faces of the monks the emotions evoked by the contemplation of heavenly mysteries. In the Uffizi Gallery are "The Coronation of the Virgin", "The Virgin and Child with Saints", "Naming of John the Baptist", "The Preaching of St. Peter", "The Martyrdom of St. Mark", and "The Adoration of the Magi", while among the examples at the Florence Academy are "The Last Judgement", "Paradise", "The Deposition from the Cross", "The Entombment", scenes from the lives of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, and various subjects from the life of Christ. At Fiesole are a "Madonna and Saints" and a "Crucifixion". The predella in London is in five compartments and shows Christ with the Banner of the Resurrection surrounded by a choir of angels and a great throng of the blessed. There is also there an "Adoration of the Magi". At Cortona appear at the Convent of San Domenico the fresco "The Virgin and Child with four Evangelists" and the altar-piece "Virgin and Child with Saints", and at the baptistry an "Annunciation" with scenes from the life of the Virgin and a "Life of St. Dominic". In the Turin Gallery "Two Angels kneeling on Clouds", and at Rome, in the Corsini Palace, "The Ascension", "The Last Judgment", and "Pentecost". At the Louvre in Paris are "The Coronation of the Virgin", "The Crucifixion", and "The Martyrdom of St. Cosmas and St. Damian". Berlin has, at the Museum, a "Last Judgment", and Dublin, at the National Gallery, "The Martyrdom of St. Cosmas and St. Damian". At Madrid is "The Annunciation", in Munich "Scenes from the Lives of St. Cosmas and St. Damian", and in St. Petersburg a "Madonna and Saints". Mrs. John L. Gardner has in the art gallery of her Boston residence an "Assumption" and a "Dormition of the Virgin". There are other works at Parma, Perugia, and Pisa. At San Marco, Florence, in addition to the works already mentioned are "Madonna della Stella", "Coronation of the Virgin", "Adoration of the Magi", and "St. Peter Martyr". The Chapel of St. Nicholas in the Vatican at Rome contains frescoes of the "Lives of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen", "The Four Evangelists", and "The Teachers of the Church". In the gallery of the Vatican are "St. Nicholas of Bari", and "Madonna and Angels". The work at Orvieto finished by Signorelli shows Christ in "a glory of angels with sixteen saints and prophets". Bryan, Dictionary of Painters and Engravers; Edgecombe-Haley, Fra Angelico.


Van Cleef, Augustus. "Fra Angelico." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 22 Feb. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01483b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Nicolette Ormsbee.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01483b.htm

stained glass window of Fra Angelico, Saint Dominic's Church, London, England, artist unknown; swiped with permission from the flickr.com photostream of Father Lawrence Lew, OP

Blessed Fra Angelico


Also known as
  • Angelico of Fiesole
  • Beato Angelico
  • Fra Giovanni
  • Giovanni da Fiesole
  • Giovanni de Fiesole
  • Guido di Pietro
  • John of Fiesole
  • Painter of the Angels
Profile

Joined the Dominicans in Fiesole, Italy in 1407, taking the name Fra Giovanna. He was taught to illuminate missals and manuscripts, and immediately exhibited a natural talent as an artist. Today his works can be seen in the Italian cities Cortona, Fiesole, Florence, and in the Vatican. His dedication to religious art earned him the title Angelico.

Born


Fra Anglico, by James White


Article

Fra Giovanni Angelico of the order of Friars Preachers, of Fiesole, is renowned as much for his excellence as a painter as for his high character as a friar. Indeed, it is through the manifestation of his artistic life that his virtue was revealed. However he ranked in heaven, amongst those who understand the art of painting he is looked upon as one of the noblest and sweetest artists ever to be inspired by God. For that reason the true and simple record of his life and creation has been seriously distorted by writers, carried away by the romance of his pictures, who have imagined experiences and interpretations which can never be verified. Less than a hundred years after his death, the historian Vasari wrote about him only in general terms indicating that the man was the artist and that his life was happily and fruitfully occupied in making works to glorify God. Who could hope to better the following description by Vasari?

“Fra Giovanni was a simple and most holy man in his habits, and it is a sign of his goodness that one morning, when Pope Nicholas V wished him to dine with him, he excused himself from eating flesh without the permission of his prior, not thinking of the papal authority. He avoided all worldly intrigues, living in purity and holiness, and was as benign to the poor as I believe Heaven must be to him now. He was always busy with his paintings, but would never do any but holy subjects. He might have become rich, but cared nothing about it, for he used to say that true riches consist in being contented with little. He might have ruled many but would not, saying that there was less trouble and error in obeying others. He could have obtained high rank in his Order and in the world, but he did not esteem it, saying that he wished for no other dignity than to escape hell and win Paradise. In truth, not only the religious, but all men ought to seek that dignity, which is only to be found in good and virtuous living. He was most gentle and temperate, living chastely, removed from the cares of the world. He would often say that whoever practiced art needed a quiet life and freedom from care, and that he who occupies himself with the things of Christ ought always to be with Christ. He was never seen in anger among the Friars, which seems to be an extraordinary thing and almost impossible to believe; his habit was to smile and reprove his friends. To those who wished works of him he would gently say that they must first obtain the consent of the prior, and after that he would not fail. I cannot bestow too much praise on this Holy Father, who was so humble and modest in all his conversation and works, so facile and devout in his painting, the saints by his hand being more like those blessed beings than those of any other. He never retouched or repaired any of his pictures, always leaving them in the condition in which they were first seen, believing, so he said, that this was the will of God. Some say that Fra Giovanni never took his brush without first making a prayer. He never made a Crucifix when the tears did not course down his cheeks, while the goodness of his sincere and great soul in religion may be seen in the faces and attitudes of his figures.”

He was born in the valley of Mugello near Vechio in 1387. His real name was Guido or Guidolino. Van Marle says that it was quite likely that he and his brother Benedetto, a miniature painter, heard the sermons of Fra Giovanni Dominici, the founder of the Dominican monastery at Fiesole, already an old man whom Saint Catherine of Siena visited in his dreams and who preached against the new spirit of humanism, inciting his audiences to a mysticism of quite a medieval character. It is not very surprising then that Fra Angelico and his brother entered the monastery of Fiesole in the year 1407. Owning to the conflict between rival claimants to the papacy and later to an outbreak of plague, the young monks and the community spent the next eleven years in, alternatively, Foligno and Cortona, and it is not until 1418 that they finally returned to the monastery at Fiesole. Whatever Fra Angelico lost in the way of stability by these flights he must have gained in experience and contact with the work of artists in the these districts and his first dated work, the Linauoli Altarpiece (1433), shows him to have been so mature that his holy spirit was clearly communicated in this painting.

In 1436 San Marco was obtained for the Dominicans by Cosimo de Medicit from Pope Eugenius. The reconstruction of this Florentine convent was immediately begun and was placed in the hands of Michelozzo Michelozzi. Fra Angelico had by now reached such a point of eminence as an artist that he was given complete charge of the interior decoration. According to Muratoff his principal work consisted of studying the scheme of composition, of giving fundamental ideas and superintending the execution of the work. At the same time he had to attend to the scaffolding; the preparation of the mural surface, the quality of the paints and other materials, and perhaps also the bookkeeping and cashier duties. Nevertheless in seven years it was finished. Some seventy compositions had been carried out, each one a visual sermon filled with incident. No decorative scheme had been followed but the monastic nature of the cells and larger rooms had dictated to the artist subject which recalled the monks to their vows but which nevertheless provided them with colour and ornament in the jeweled nature of the designs and the necessarily bright range of tones called for by the tempera medium.

In 1445 he was summoned to Rome by the Pope for whom he carried out a number of works. He stayed there until 1447 when he travelled to Orvieto where he rested and commenced an altarpiece which was completed by Bennozo Gozzoli. In 1449 he was recalled to Florence as prior, largely, it has been suggested, because this was the only way in which the Dominican friars could secure him from the patronage of the Holy Father. However, at the end of this three years ministry he was once more sought by the Pope and returned to Rome to complete his cycle of pictures. He died there in 1455. These facts set out practically all that is known of Fra Angelico the man. But from his pictures his character and nature can be gleaned as freshly as if he were still laboring with love on the embellishment of San Marco; naïve and simple in his inability to handle or describe the reality of life convincingly; profoundly moving in the depiction of holiness and beauty and exciting in his modernism – ready to adopt the most recent theories and inventions; one of the first artists of his time to introduce the nude figure and to paint landscape which was taken from the countryside in which he lived.

When he came to Fiesole at the age of 20, Fra Angelico had already been trained. According to the record of his entry, “he excelled as a painter and adorned many panels and walls before taking the habit of a cleric.” Before he commenced the interior of San Marco, he must have reached a very advanced stage of development because he was then surrounded with many assistants and pupils. Yet, little knowledge of his original master can be elicited even by the most scientific of historians. These have been variously stated to have been Gherardo Starnina, Lorenzo Monaco, and Spinello, but none can afford to overlook the importance of the influence of the great sculptors, Donatello, Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia, each of whom was closely associated with Michellozi, the architect of San Marco. The soft and rounded figures of Fra Angelicoc’s compositions suggest not so much anatomically-realized bodies as the bronze bas-relief of Ghiberti’s door or of the flowing planes of Donatello. Reflect also the correspondence of feeling between the gentle Madonnas of Luca della Robbias’ enameled terra-cottas in gleaming blue and white which this sculptor first invented in the year 1443 and the lovely Coronations in the Uffizi, the Louvre and in San Marco. The calm medieval monasticism of these static figures can then be seen to be a blend of the inherited Byzantine spirit and the visual equivalent of Fra Angelico’s contemplation of Heaven. He was able to call the romanticism of his age to this assistance and to introduce gestures of movement and conflict into his subjects as can be seen in our National Gallery version of “The Martydom of Saints Cosmas and Damian,” but he was always separated from the greatest of his contemporaries by his own spirituality. It was his total immersion in love, his inability to conceive the material man on the sensual plane, which gives his works an idyllic sweetness that takes them a little out of the tradition and makes them the epitome of innocence and, let us admit it, utterly desirable.

Truly to grasp the significance of Fra Angelico one must carefully compare him with one whom Bernard Berenson calls the greatest painter since Giotto. Massacio completed his work in the Brancacci Chapel in 1427. He seized on all the remarkable aspects of Giotto’s art and pushed forward the science of painting in the 28 years which was all that was given to him of life. He created a sense of space in which his figures could live and appear to breathe and he made these figures so big and heavy, with yet a brooding and profound dignity, that the citizens of Florence were said to gasp with amazement when first they saw his Crucifixion one the walls of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Novella. The reality which Massacio painted was that of one of Brunellechi’s new churches containing a figure of Christ which confounded the viewer into mistaking the representation for the very Flesh itself. Fra Angelico had nothing of this quality, neither the overwhelming force of the figures nor the convincing appearance of interior space. Indeed, it is doubtful if the holy friar would have wished to deceive any one’s eye or to make them imagine even for one moment that they were seeing anything other than an idealized conception of the reward of virtue. He was not able even to suggest the horror of hell, although he frequently applied himself to the task. Like that other painter of love and tenderness in Sienna, Simone Martini, he was imbued with a power to make images of God’s saints that man might be moved, by very desire for beauty, into loving God, since beauty is merely a synonym for God.

Those contemplatives, those mystics who succeed in subjecting their bodies to their minds, in order to achieve unity of God, must come in the end almost to forget what a healthy, perfect physique feels and looks like. If, as we believe, Fra Angelico was of such an order of men, he was surely incapable of conceiving the human body in the classic or idealized physical type and of reproducing it as did Massacio and later Michaelangelo. One turns then to Fra Angelico’s art fully realizing that the perfection he achieved was in the direction of simple love and goodness. It dealt with the drama of daily life only in so far as such drama assisted him to demonstrate the New Testament. Consider ‘The Crucifixion’ from San Marco. Here the figures of Christ and the thieves are painted as symbols of the Redemption. We feel the tragedy and the suffering only in a limited way. Turn away from the top half of the picture to the group of Saints below and observe how all of them are connected by expression and direction of countenance with the grief of Our Lady. As far as they are concerned the figures above might be merely statues. Fra Angelico has placed the Crucifix high but the mourners below are, so to speak, in the world with us and we join them in grief, not at what we see above, but at our realization of what it means. Fra Angelico, the preacher, dominates Fra Angelico, the artist.

In the “Coronation of The Virgin” from San Marco, one comes into contact with the master at his greatest. In the Louvre “Coronation” he freely gives expression to a range of colours against a gold background which sets up a chord of emotion in the heart of the viewer to be likened only to the blissful relief of a child re-united with its mother after a nightmare separation. Like a tumultuous song of joy in blues and pinks and gold the range of saints wing out on either side while in the centre a comparatively young King of Heaven crowns His beloved Mother. Note particularly that while the saints are drawn in characteristic poses and shapes, this ageless and pure symbol of Womankind who is Our Lady is described as a simple geometric form practically without bodily description except for the beautifully modeled head and tender hands.

In the San Marco ‘Coronation’, however, a new and probably original shape for the crown is introduced which by its dark and pointed form becomes a symbol for the whole altarpiece of the earlier work in the Louvre. The polygonal altar has been replaced by abstract planes – clouds which separate th six saints from the objects of their adoration. The Holy Virgin is more precisely defined and this time is seated as She gracefully leans forward to receive the crown. However much one admires the complication and dexterity and brilliant colour of the first Coronation it must be seen that the simpler balance of the figures here and the mystery, tenderness and more direct expression of emotion makes this one of the supreme achievements of art. In particular, one cannot help pointing out how the consciousness of the harmony of bodily form here adds to the poetry of religious feeling which permeates the action and thought expressed in the eloquent movements of all the figures.

In the San Marco ‘Transfiguration’, the artist returns once more to his Byzantine origins and releases himself from the necessity of justifying the position of each saint in the picture. He surrounds the figure of Christ with saints in earthly astonishment and with others formally worshipping. Creating with these a spacious plan of design, he allows the superbly modeled figure of Christ to extend over the oval of light and thus to enter our consciousness, in reversal, one might say, of the plan of The Coronation. The Head and Hands of Our Saviour now take on the nature of The Flesh and the aspect is one of kindly benevolence. Here one sees the painter pay tribute to Massacio.

It has been said repeatedly that Fra Angelico was a medieval classic rather than a Renaissance classic. Surely it would have been more truly to say that the spirit of pagan classicism which grew apace with the development of humanism was so far removed from the mind and the heart of our painter that his work remained pure and unsullied by a quality which however enlivening had also the elements of death. Undoubtedly Fra Angelico was unable to consider the problem of death. He perfectly solved problems of symmetry and harmony, of form and colour. In short he was an artist dedicated to Heavenly images and he only understood sin in so far as he could convert sinners. For over 500 years all those sinners who are able to consider his pictures, have come to regard them as poems of love, and by virtue of their quality, find themselves hushed and silent, knowing they are in saintly company.

MLA Citation
  • James White. “Fra Angelico”. The Irish Rosary, July – August 1955. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 December 2015. Web. 18 February 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/fra-anglico-by-james-white/>


Amy Steedman – Saint Fra Angelico


Nearly a hundred years had passed by since Giotto lived and worked in Florence, and in the same hilly country where he used to tend his sheep another great painter was born.

Many other artists had come and gone, and had added their golden links of beauty to the chain of Art which bound these years together. Some day you will learn to know all their names and what they did. But now we will only single out, here and there, a few of those names which are perhaps greater than the rest. Just as on a clear night, when we look up into the starlit sky, it would bewilder us to try and remember all the stars, so we learn first to know those that are most easily recognised – the Plough, or the Great Bear, as they shine with a clear steady light against the background of a thousand lesser stars.

The name by which this second great painter is known is Fra Angelico, but that was only the name he earned in later years. His baby name was Guido, and his home was in a village close to where Giotto was born.

He was not a poor boy, and did not need to work in the fields or tend the sheep on the hillside. Indeed, he might have soon become rich and famous, for his wonderful talent for painting would have quickly brought him honours and wealth if he had gone out into the world. But instead of this, when he was a young man of twenty he made up his mind to enter the convent at Fiesole, and to become a monk of the Order of Saint Dominic.

Every brother, or frate, as he is called, who leaves the world and enters the life of the convent is given a new name, and his old name is never used again. So young Guido was called Fra Giovanni, or Brother John. But it is not by that name that he is known best, but that of Fra Angelico, or the angelic brother – a name which was given him afterwards because of his pure and beautiful life, and the heavenly pictures which he painted.

With all his great gifts in his hands, with all the years of youth and pleasure stretching out green and fair before him, he said good-bye to earthly joys, and chose rather to serve his Master Christ in the way he thought was right.

The monks of Saint Dominic were the great preachers of those days – men who tried to make the world better by telling people what they ought to do, and teaching them how to live honest and good lives. But there are other ways of teaching people besides preaching, and the young monk who spent his time bending over the illuminated prayer- book, seeing with his dreamy eyes visions of saints and white-robed angels, was preparing to be a greater teacher than them all. The words of the preacher monks have passed away, and the world pays little heed to them now, but the teaching of Fra Angelico, the silent lessons of his wonderful pictures, are as fresh and clear to-day as they were in those far-off years.

Great trouble was in store for the monks of the little convent at Fiesole, which Fra Angelico and his brother Benedetto had entered. Fierce struggles were going on in Italy between different religious parties, and at one time the little band of preaching monks were obliged to leave their peaceful home at Fiesole to seek shelter in other towns. But, as it turned out, this was good fortune for the young painter-monk, for in those hill towns of Umbria where the brothers sought refuge there were pictures to be studied which delighted his eyes with their beauty, and taught him many a lesson which he could never have learned on the quiet slopes of Fiesole.

The hill towns of Italy are very much the same to-day as they were in those days. Long winding roads lead upwards from the plain below to the city gates, and there on the summit of the hill the little town is built. The tall white houses cluster close together, and the overhanging eaves seem almost to meet across the narrow paved streets, and always there is the great square, with the church the centre of all.
It would be almost a day’s journey to follow the white road that leads down from Perugia across the plain to the little hill town of Assisi, and many a spring morning saw the painter-monk setting out on the convent donkey before sunrise and returning when the sun had set. He would thread his way up between the olive-trees until he reached the city gates, and pass into the little town without hindrance. For the followers of Saint Francis in their brown robes would be glad to welcome a stranger monk, though his black robe showed that he belonged to a different order. Any one who came to see the glory of their city, the church where their saint lay, which Giotto had covered with his wonderful pictures, was never refused admittance.

How often then must Fra Angelico have knelt in the dim light of that lower church of Assisi, learning his lesson on his knees, as was ever his habit. Then home again he would wend his way, his eyes filled with visions of those beautiful pictures, and his hand longing for the pencil and brush, that he might add new beauty to his own work from what he had learned.

Several years passed by, and at last the brothers were allowed to return to their convent home of San Dominico at Fiesole, and there they lived peaceably for a long time. We cannot tell exactly what pictures our painter-monk painted during those peaceful years, but we know he must have been looking out with wise, seeing eyes, drinking in all the beauty that was spread around him.

At his feet lay Florence, with its towers and palaces, the Arno running through it like a silver thread, and beyond, the purple of the Tuscan hills. All around on the sheltered hillside were green vines and fruit-trees, olives and cypresses, fields flaming in spring with scarlet anemones or golden with great yellow tulips, and hedges of rose-bushes covered with clusters of pink blossoms. No wonder, then, such beauty sunk into his heart, and we see in his pictures the pure fresh colour of the spring flowers, with no shadow of dark or evil things.

Soon the fame of the painter began to be whispered outside the convent walls, and reached the ears of Cosimo da Medici, one of the powerful rulers of Florence. He offered the monks a new home, and, when they were settled in the convent of San Marco in Florence, he invited Fra Angelico to fresco the walls.

One by one the heavenly pictures were painted upon the walls of the cells and cloister of the new home. How the brothers must have crowded round to see each new fresco as it was finished, and how anxious they would be to see which picture was to be near their own particular bed. In all the frescoes, whether he painted the gentle Virgin bending before the angel messenger, or tried to show the glory of the ascended Lord, the artist- monk would always introduce one or more of the convent’s special saints, which made the brothers feel that the pictures were their very own. Fra Angelico had a kind word and smile for all the brothers. He was never impatient, and no one ever saw him angry, for he was as humble and gentle as the saints whose pictures he loved to paint.

It is told of him, too, that he never took a brush or pencil in his hand without a prayer that his work might be to the glory of God. Often when he painted the sufferings of our Lord, the tears would be seen running down his cheeks and almost blinding his eyes.

There is an old legend which tells of a certain monk who, when he was busily illuminating a page of his missal, was called away to do some service for the poor. He went unwillingly, the legend says, for he longed to put the last touches to the holy picture he was painting; but when he returned, lo! he found his work finished by angel hands.

Often when we look at some of Fra Angelico’s pictures we are reminded of this legend, and feel that he too might have been helped by those same angel hands. Did they indeed touch his eyes that he might catch glimpses of a Heaven where saints were swinging their golden censers, and white-robed angels danced in the flowery meadows of Paradise? We cannot tell; but this we know, that no other painter has ever shown us such a glory of heavenly things.

Best of all, the angel-painter loved to paint pictures of the life of our Lord; and in the picture I have shown you, you will see the tender care with which he has drawn the head of the Infant Jesus with His little golden halo, the Madonna in her robe of purest blue, holding the Baby close in her arms, Saint Joseph the guardian walking at the side, and all around the flowers and trees which he loved so well in the quiet home of Fiesole.

He did not care for fame or power, this dreamy painter of angels, and when the Pope invited him to Rome to paint the walls of a chapel there, he thought no more of the glory and honour than if he was but called upon to paint another cell at San Marco.

But when the Pope had seen what this quiet monk could do, he called the artist to him.

‘A man who can paint such pictures,’ he said, ‘must be a good man, and one who will do well whatever he undertakes. Will you, then, do other work for me, and become my Archbishop at Florence?’ But the painter was startled and dismayed.

‘I cannot teach or preach or govern men,’ he said, ‘I can but use my gift of painting for the glory of God. Let me rather be as I am, for it is safer to obey than to rule.’

But though he would not take this honour himself, he told the Pope of a friend of his, a humble brother, Fra Antonino, at the convent of San Marco, who was well fitted to do the work. So the Pope took the painter’s advice, and the choice was so wise and good, that to this day the Florentine people talk lovingly of their good bishop Antonino.

It was while he was at work in Rome that Fra Angelico died, so his body does not rest in his own beloved Florence. But if his body lies in Rome, his gentle spirit still seems to hover around the old convent of San Marco, and there we learn to know and love him best. Little wonder that in after ages they looked upon him almost as a saint, and gave him the title of ‘Beato,’ or the blessed angel- painter.



New Catholic Dictionary – Fra Angelico


Also known as
  • Guido di Pietro
  • Giovanni da Fiesole
Profile

Religious painter, born near Castello di Vicchio, Tuscany, Italy; died Rome,Italy. Entering the Dominican Order as Fra Giovanni, in Fiesole, 1407, the illumination of missals and manuscripts furnished his first training in art. For the Dominican convent in Cortona where he lived, 1414-1418, he painted the well-known “Madonna and Four Saints,” and for the baptistery a first “Annunciation.” Returning to Fiesole in 1418, he painted the “Christ in Glory Surrounded by Saints and Angels,” now in the National Gallery of London. He was invited to Florence in 1436 to decorate the new convent of San Marco. Among the paintings and frescos still to be seen in the galleries of the city and in the national museum established in the former convent are the “Crucifixion,” “Madonna of the Star,” “Coronation of the Virgin,” and “Christ as a Pilgrim.” His finest work is in the chapel of Nicholas V in the Vatican, a series of frescos depicting the lives of Saint Stephen and Saint Lawrence. The dedication of his art to religious subjects earned him the title of “Angelico,” and the holiness of his life caused him to be beatified, so that he is also known as “Il Beato” (the Blessed). His work is noted for an extraordinary spiritual quality, bright decorative detail, and exquisite coloring.

Born
MLA Citation
  • “Fra Anglico”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 August 2012. Web. 18 February 2020. <http://catholicsaints.info/new-catholic-dictionary-fra-angelico/>




Blessed Giovanni da Fiesole, more popularly known as Fra Angelico.

Fra Angelico is well known as an Italian painter of the early Renaissance who combined the life of a devout Dominican friar with that of an accomplished painter. Originally named Guido di Pietro, he was born in Vicchio, Tuscany, in 1395. He discovered his God-given gifts as a child, and as a young teenager was already a much sought-after artist.

Angelico was a devout young man who entered a Dominican friary in Fiesole in 1418. He took his religious vows, and about 1425 became a friar using the name Giovanni da Fiesole. He was called “Brother Angel” by his peers, and was praised for his kindness to others and hours devoted to prayer.
He spent most of his early life in Florence decorating the Dominican monastery of San Marco. In 1445, he was called to Rome. But before leaving, he completed one of his most beautiful works in a nondescript upstairs cell that may have been his own bedroom in the monastery. It’s an Annunciation painted high on the wall against the vaulted ceiling. The angel Gabriel is positioned near the center of the arched composition, announcing God’s favor on Mary. Off to the left stands Saint Dominic. The effect is that of a vision within a vision as Saint Dominic’s prayers conjures up the vision of the angel and Mary while the whole painted scene is that of a vision seen by the occupant of the cell. Like the man who painted it, the scene can best be described as “holy” because of its beautiful simplicity.

At the time Angelico was called to Rome, Pope Eugene IV was in search of a new archbishop of Florence. He eventually chose the bishop of San Marco, Antonio Pierozzi. Two hundred years later, when Pierozzi was proposed for sainthood, it was revealed that the pope’s first choice as archbishop of Florence was Fra Angelico, but that the painter’s humility caused him to decline and instead suggest Pierozzi to be archbishop.

Angelico reportedly made what was considered a profound stewardship declaration during his life: “He who does Christ’s work must stay with Christ always.” Later known to art historians as Fra Angelico, he died in 1455.

Pope John Paul II beatified Fra Angelico in 1982 and declared him patron of Catholic artists. The late pontiff suggested that he be declared “Blessed Angelico”, because of the seemingly perfect integrity of his life and the almost divine beauty of the images he painted, especially those of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His feast day is February 18.

SOURCE : http://catholicstewardship.com/saint-of-the-month/167-blessed-giovanni-da-fiesole-more-popularly-known-as-fra-angelico


Vierge à l'enfant avec saint Dominique et saint Thomas, 1424-1430,
 Musée de l'Ermitage 


Blessed Fra Angelico, OP (PC)

Born in Mugello near Florence, Italy, in 1386 or 1387; died in Rome, Italy, in 1455.


Guido da Vicchio's innate talent for art was supplemented by the natural beauty of his native Tuscany. He studied under several master artists when Italy was most conscious of the spirit of Giotto and Cimabue, and their influence was always to give a certain unearthly aspect to his paintings.

When he was still quite young, and already a recognized artist, he entered the Dominican monastery at Fiesole with his brother Benedetto in 1407. It is a tribute to the ability and sanctity of both brothers that their names stand out in such distinguished company, for some of the greatest men of the order were housed in the same priory: Blesseds John Dominici, Peter Capucci, and Lawrence of Ripafratta (f.d. September 28), and St. Antoninus of Florence. The latter, when he was appointed archbishop, was to commission some of the two artists' finest work.

Few personal details are known about Brother John of the Angels, who is known as Fra Angelico in secular history. He was a priest. His painting in Florence was sufficiently well-known and admired to merit his being called to Rome to decorate the Chapel of Nicholas V at the Vatican. In 1449, he was appointed prior of San Marco, which he decorated with his wonderful paintings, and held that office for three years.

He may have been recalled to Rome in 1454; he died there in 1455 at the Dominican friary of La Minerva. In much the same way as St. Thomas Aquinas was obscured by his writings for centuries, Fra Angelico seems to have disappeared behind his art. We know that he was the painter par excellence of the Queen of Angels and of her court.

St. Antoninus, who must have known him well, said: "No one could paint like that without first having been to heaven." The sincerity of his paintings and the depth of their theological and devotional teaching makes this statement believable.

Fra Angelico and Fra Benedetto were both artists of skill and originality. Perhaps God wished them to work together to make Fiesole and San Marco treasure houses of art, where some innocence and beauty might remain untouched by the storm of Renaissance humanism loomed on the horizon. Benedetto painted and illuminated an exquisite set of choir books, reputed to be the loveliest in the world. If he had lived out his career, he might have rivalled his famous brother, but he was accidentally killed in a street battle during one of the frequent political upheavals in Florence, and his work was left unfinished.

Fra Angelico himself did some illumination; in fact, he probably began his career as an illuminator. There is in his altarpieces a definite touch of the illuminator's talent for extracting the gist of the matter and leaving out extraneous details. His work is never cluttered, which might, of course, be the result of a mind trained in theology, as well as of a hand trained in illuminating.

His frescoes were done on wet plaster, with clay colors, which means that he could not see any exact color relationship until the wall had dried, and it was too late to touch it up. This makes it all the more remarkable that his colors are so exquisitely blended, and that they still glow with such unfaded loveliness after 400 years. Some of his best works are in the convent of San Marco, which is now a state museum.

Here in Washington, D.C., we have a wonderful wood panel enamelled by Fra Angelico, "The Madonna of Humility," which shows, much better than the prints we are accustomed to seeing, the almost heavenly radiance that glowed through his paintings. The figures of the Madonna and Child have a quaint, awkward attitude; yet no one looking at them can possibly mistake that fact that he is depicting the Queen of Heaven.

Part of the ethereal look of his Madonna comes from the fact that Fra Angelico did not use models for his pictures. This alone was remarkable in a time when painters were flinging themselves into the study of anatomy, sometimes at the cost of other qualities. Perhaps he was revolted by the practice of some of his contemporary painters who chose beautiful women with bad reputations to pose for their Madonnas. Perhaps it was simply that he saw, with the clear vision of a theologian, that nothing--painting, statue, sermon, poem, or building--should obstruct one's view of God, drawing the attention away from that vision.

Fra Angelico's greatest complete work was his "Life of Christ," a series of 35 paintings in Fiesole. They began with the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel and ended with the lovely Coronation of the Virgin, which we sometimes see reproduced in print. These pictures tell us what the records leave unsaid: that Brother John of the Angels was a capable theologian and a splendid Scripture scholar. He was also a devoted son of St. Dominic, whom he dearly loved and never tired of painting.

In America, we are most familiar with his paintings of the Annunciation, which was obviously one of his favorite subjects, since he painted it dozens of times. Most of his subjects were chosen from the life of Our Lord; the famous "angels," which one so often sees, are parts of much larger altarpieces, having much more serious subjects than the colorful and joyful angels decorating them.

Some have said that Fra Angelico in art, Dante in poetry, and St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica, have each presented the same truth in three different ways. Whether or not this is completely true, it is an indication of the veneration in which history has held this man. His motto was: "To paint Christ, one must live Christ." He is the best example we have of one who preaches with a brush as eloquently as his brothers do with voice or pen. Today he still preaches, in places where no other would be heard. Perhaps his mission is still alive, to help bring into the fold those who love art but know nothing of God.

The cause of Fra Angelico was resumed on the 500th anniversary of his death and has been active since then. Although he is usually called il Beato Angelico, he has never officially been beatified (Benedictines, Dorcy).


SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0318.shtml



Beato Giovanni da Fiesole (detto Beato Angelico o Fra Angelico) Domenicano


Vicchio di Mugello, Firenze, 1387 - Roma, 18 febbraio 1455

Il beato domenicano Giovanni di Fiesole è meglio conosciuto come Beato Angelico. Esercitò l'arte predicatoria con il pennello, dipingendo moltissimi capolavori tra i quali la celeberrima Annunciazione. Nato alla fine del Trecento - con il nome di Guido - a Vicchio di Mugello, entrò con il fratello Benedetto nel convento di Fiesole. Operò a Firenze, in tutta la Toscana, a San Pietro e nei palazzi vaticani, su invito di Eugenio IV. Morì a Roma nel 1455 nel convento di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, dove tuttora sono conservate le sue spoglie. Giovanni Paolo II l'ha proclamato nel 1984 patrono universale degli artisti. (Avvenire)

Patronato: Artisti (Giovanni Paolo II, 1984)

Martirologio Romano: A Roma, beato Giovanni da Fiesole, detto Angelico, sacerdote dell’Ordine dei Predicatori, che, sempre unito a Cristo, espresse nelle sue pitture ciò che contemplava nel suo intimo, in modo tale da elevare le menti degli uomini alle realtà celesti.

Questa soave e genialissima figura di Frate Predicatore fu un dono magnifico fatto da Dio all’Ordine. Guido o Guidolino, figlio di Pietro, nacque a Vicchio di Mugello in Toscana alla fine del XIV° secolo e fin da giovane fu pittore in Firenze. Quando sentì la vocazione, insieme al fratello Benedetto, si presentò al convento domenicano di Fiesole. Ordinato sacerdote assunse il nome di Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, ma subito dopo la sua morte fu usanza comune chiamarlo “Beato Angelico”. L’azione di santo e di artista del giovane si svolse mirabilmente nel clima di alta perfezione spirituale e intellettuale trovato nel chiostro. Le sante austerità, gli studi profondi, la perenne elevazione dell’anima a Dio, affinarono il suo spirito e gli aprirono orizzonti sconfinati. Così preparato, da buon Frate Predicatore, poté anch’egli dare agli altri il frutto della propria contemplazione e dar vita, col suo magico pennello, al più sacro dei poemi, narrando ai fratelli la divina storia della nostra salvezza. I suoi Crocifissi, le sue Madonne, i suoi Santi sono una predica che risuona nei secoli. Anima di una semplicità evangelica, seppe vivere col cuore in cielo, pur consacrandosi a un intenso lavoro. Sue sono molte pale d’altare a Fiesole (1425-1438) e le celle, i corridoi, l’aula capitolare e i chiostri del Convento di San Marco a Firenze (1439-1445). Recatosi a Roma, su invito di Papa Eugenio IV, dipinse nella Basilica di San Pietro e nei Palazzi Vaticani, e dal 1445 al 1449, per Papa Niccolò V la sua cappella privata e lo studio in Vaticano. Il Papa gli offrì la Sede Vescovile di Firenze, che energicamente rifiutò, persuadendo il Pontefice a nominare il confratello Sant’Antonino. Fu da Dio chiamato al premio eterno il 18 febbraio 1455 a Roma, nel convento di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, dove il suo corpo è ancora conservato nella attigua Basilica Domenicana. A suo onore, e per la promozione dell’arte sacra, Papa Giovanni Paolo II il 3 ottobre 1982 ha concesso il suo culto liturgico a tutto l’Ordine e il 18 febbraio 1984 lo ha proclamato Patrono Universale degli Artisti.

Autore:
Franco Mariani

SOURCE : http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/41575

Jean Erbes. «Fra Angelico et Rembrandt dans l'Iconographie Chrétienne ». Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie religieuses  Année 1963  43-1  pp. 48-61 :