Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Heavenly Vision

The Blessed Fra Angelico 1400-1455
Coronation of the Virgin
Fresco, 184 x 167 cm
Convento di San Marco, Florence

This is the fresco on the wall of Cell 9 of the Convento di San Marco in Florence

Each scene in each cell is meant to be an individual meditation.

The saints represented on the lower part are (from the left) St Thomas, St Benedict, St Dominic, St Francis, St Peter the Martyr and St Mark.

At the feet of the Madonna, Dominic and Francis are present. It is a common scene in Dominican and Franciscan art. The image makes sense only when we know of the often bitter rivalry between the religious orders founded by the two saints.

On 18th February 2004, Monsignor Mauro Piacenza at the Basilica in Florence said:

"Nell’Incoronazione della Vergine contempliamo invece la visione ultraterrena ed escatologica. Cristo “il più bello tra i figli dell’uomo”(Salmo 44), pieno di grazia e di soavità, depone un diadema finissimo sul capo della Madre: leggermente e delicatamente inchinata, in atteggiamento di umiltà, purezza, ubbidienza, come nel momento dell’Annunciazione. Tutta candida e tutta bella.

Con Gesù e Maria e con gli eletti che li attorniano, il pittore degli angeli apre la visione del paradiso. Beata pacis visio!"

"In the Coronation of the Virgin we meditate on a worldly and eschatological vision. Christ as "the fairest of the sons of men" (Psalm 44), full of grace and sweetness, puts a tiara on the most elegant head of his Mother: her head, gently and slightly bowed and in an attitude of humility, purity, obedience, as at the time of the Annunciation. All gleaming white and all beautiful.

With Jesus and Mary and the elect who surround them, the painter of Angels dsiplays a vision of paradise. Beata pacis visio!"

Dominican monastic communities regarded visual images as crucial for prayer, meditation, and study, and therefore they mandated the use of images in the dormitories of the monastery.

For them art was not a commodity, a deluxe product of consummate artistic technique, an investment or an object of exchange to be bought, sold, and transferred at will from one owner and one location to another, nor was it basically a source of pleasure. They believed that art should be part of a particular community’s daily life and an expression of its highest values, inseparably linked to the public building or the private purpose (such as prayer or remembrance) for which it had been commissioned

The motto of Fra Angelico was: "To paint Christ, one must live Christ."

In her 1856 essay “A Natural History of German Life,” George Eliot wrote:

"The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies. Appeals founded on generalizations and statistics require a sympathy ready made, a moral sentiment already in activity; but a picture of human life such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves, which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment.”
[Marian Evans], “A Natural History of German Life,” Westminster Review 66 (July 1856), 51-79. Reprinted in Nathan Sheppard (ed. and introd.), The Essays of “George Eliot.” Complete (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 141-77. 145