Welcome December! It is winter’s month of celebration that signals festive music, scintillating lights and the aroma of cinnamon and chocolate. Amid long-awaited family gatherings, last minutes shopping, eggnog and steamed pudding, there is a gentle call to find a quiet time of reflection. December signals an ending of a year and awaits, with anticipation and hope, the coming of a fresh beginning. Closure and expectation come together to ignite our holidays.
This month ChasingART looks back at the artists who portrayed the Annunciation, the narrative of the angel Gabriel’s message of good tidings to Mary, who would conceive a child to be born the son of God. The Annunciation is the most frequent scene of Christian art, harkening back centuries. The message is recorded on canvas by artists who recognized the profound significance of the message that held both a closure and expectation.
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico resides on the walls of the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy. When Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici aka “the elder” rebuilt the convent, he commissioned Fra Angelico between 1436 – 1445 to decorate the walls with elaborate frescoes. Little did Fra Angelico know that his fresco depicting Gabriel and Mary would forever place him in the realm of famous artists – that his name would be remembered over 500 years after his passing. In an age when the Renaissance was moving the world in the direction of humanism, Fra Angelico carried a firm reverence for his faith, which is evident in the joyful colours of Gabriel’s wings and Mary’s hesitant hand-position placed close to her body. The scene radiates amazement even as it records, in Mary’s eager face, an acceptance of destiny.
What many may not know was that Fra Angelico had a brother, Fra Benedetto, who worked alongside him in the creation of The Annunciation. Years earlier in 1407, the brothers entered the Dominican Order of Preachers and lived in the Dominican’s monastery in Fiesole. Together, the brothers illuminated manuscripts. (Fra Benedetto went on to illuminate the choral books of San Marco). It has been said that they remained artistic partners for their entire lives.
As we gather with family and friends in the weeks ahead, may we remember two brothers working together to capture a moment of profound transformation. It was a work of love and compassion that continues to inspire us today.