Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
“Fra Angelico and the masters of light” is one of those exhibitions you can call an event: The show, that opened today at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, not only pays tribute to Fra Angelico, but revisits the whole movement called “the painters of light”.
Believe it or not, but this is the first vast exhibition dedicated to Fra Angelico in France. Never heard of Fra Angelico? Come on. You’ve probably seen his most famous work, the altarpiece at San Marco Church in Florence showing for the first time the saints not in heaven but standing squarely within the space as if they were able to talk to each other and everyone else.
Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455) was actually a monk (fra is standing for fratello which means brother in Italian), but they also called him Il Beato, the blessed one. He painted the religious world, most of the time focused on the confines of his monastery. But his paintings and panels are of a rare beauty. They are propaganda, of course, trying to convince the good Catholics to be even better ones. But come closer, look at his paintings, and I bet that this beauty will touch even an atheist soul.
There is something in the faces of his figures that goes beyond the Christian message. His angels and madonnas have sadness in their eyes that you wonder what story they want to tell you. The colours though are bright and delightful which creates a strange mixture of melancholia and joy.
The exhibition “Fra Angelico and the masters of light” presents 25 works by Fra Angelico borrowed from great Italian collections and museums around the world together with as many pieces and panels painted by people who influenced him or members of his workshop in Florence. There is Paolo Uccello’s beautiful Saint Georges and the dragon and don’t miss the striking, pop-coloured Birth of the Virgin by Le Scheggia.
In a nutshell: “Fra Angelico and the masters of light” is not only a quite unique opportunity to discover the beauty and serenity of his paintings, but to get an idea of the artistic revolution at the beginning of the 15th century in Italy, a revolution led by artists who wanted to create a new visionof man and nature, based on an objective representation of the world.Photos on top: 2. Fra Angelico: Stigmatization of St Francis, Strossmayer Gallery, Zagreb. © L’Académie croate des Sciences et des Arts, Zagreb, Croatie 3. Fra Angelico: episodes from the Life of St Nicholas, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence Fra Angelico – From 23 September 2011 – 16 January 2012