Fra Angelico

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1437-46
The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1437-46

Fra Angelico is the artist we are studying for the first term of our homeschool. By far, The Annunciation is my favorite painting of the ones we studied. This is a fresco on the wall at the top of a staircase in the Florentine monastery, San Marco. Imagine walking up the stairs to retreat to your cell (perhaps it’s time for a few hours of prayer on your knees), all the while gazing at beautiful Angel Gabriel revealing to Mary that she will be the mother of God’s Son. Mary’s expression is intense and focused–a good expression to go to prayers with. We watched a short video showing San Marco. The architecture in the painting is similar to the architecture in the monastery, so the painting really brings the viewer into the scene. We also learned that the angel’s lovely wings are even more lovely in person: something in the paint causes them to sparkle.

Now look at the painting while listening to some of Hildegard von Bingen’s music. Hildegard was our composer of the term, a nun who had visions, wrote books, composed beautiful, haunting songs (such as The Origins of Fire). She was a mystic, and I’m not sure what to think about mystics, and a bright, burning light in the dullness of the Middle Ages.

I wonder what she would have thought about this painting if she could have seen it?

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