Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fra Angelico 5/12

On the 18th of each month this year I'm posting a painting of Fra Angelico's that I've seen and want to share to celebrate his feast day on 18 February. This month I've chosen one of the panels from the triptych in Galleria Corsini in Rome, 'The Ascension'.

I first saw this triptych in an exhibition of Fra Angelico's works in Paris in 2011 at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre as part of its 'Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light' exhibition. It was a joy to see it again in Rome with it's brilliant and fresh colours and straight forward story-telling. It's quite a small triptych but no less gorgeous for it's size.

It's a simple panel showing the risen Christ with the cross of resurrection in his halo in red standing on a cloud while the Virgin and his disciples kneel on the ground below. St Peter is, of course, kneeling beside the Virgin in her deep blue cloak.

The figure I really like is that of the risen Jesus Christ, a calm figure standing with arms outstretched and palms facing the viewer. It's incredibly detailed for a figure that's only about five inches tall. There's a sort of 'combed' effect in the gold leaf emanating out from Christ that gives texture to the gold leaf. This effect will be magical in terms of how the painting would originally have been seen, in flickering candlelight.

Can you imagine seeing this painting in a small, dim chapel with a candle or two in front of it, flickering and moving, making the gold shimmer and move? And there is your Christ standing calm and impassive in the midst of this flickering gold. What must that have been like? I wonder how many people have wept in front of this little altarpiece over the last 500 years or so?

Here is the full triptych for you marvel at and enjoy.

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