Born Guido di Pietro in the Mugello Region north of Florence, Italy, Angelico was know by a variety of names, including, Il Beato Angelico, Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, Fra Giovanni Angelico and Il Beato, which means the blessed. Angelico was honored officially with this title centuries later by Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005). His religious works were praised throughout his life, as the great biographer of the Renaissance Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), having said,”…it is impossible to bestow too much praise on holy father…whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.”
One of Angelico’s earliest teachers may have been Lorenzo Monaco (1370 – 1425) of Florence. The influence of the Sienese painters influenced Monaco and it is also said that it passed onto Angelico. His first paintings are noted as an altarpiece for the Carthusian Monastery in Florence and frescos at the Dominica Convent in Cortona where he painted his Annunciation, and also for the Fiesole convent, where he painted a number of altarpieces including, Coronation of the Virgin, Virgin and Child Between Saints, and a predella titled Christ in Majesty.
Other works in Florence included commissions at the Santa Trinita Church, painting his glorious Deposition of Christ, at the Santa Maria Degli Angeli, painting his Last Judgment, and at the Santa Maria Novella, where his altarpiece Coronation of the Virgin was painted. The latter work is now in the Uffizi Gallery, as is his polyptych piece, Madonna and Child, which he painted amongst several other works for the San Marco convent and church in Florence between 1436 and 1445.
Angelico then traveled to Rome where he executed works in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, later returning to the Vatican Palace to paint in the Niccoline Chapel. Between these commissions he also painted in the Orvieto Cathedral in Umbria.
Both Vasari and centuries later Pope John Paul II held great admiration for Angelico, as the Pope called him a man of “perfect integrity” and his work “almost divine beauty,” where Vasari had said he was an artist of “rare and perfect talent.”
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