Annunciation with Saint Peter Martyr Fra Angelico Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Annunciation refers to the moment at which the angel Gabriel informs the Virgin Mary that she should conceive a child and call it Jesus. Fra Angelico produced several different depictions of this important Christian scene across his career, one of which is included here under the title of Annunciation with Saint Peter Martyr.

The architectural touches in this painting are particularly memorable, with a beautiful ceiling that leads across to arches that fall just out of the painting. The main walls of the room are left entirely bare, and one imagines that we are in a part of a building which neighbours the outdoors, perhaps just besides a garden as is mentioned in the original scripture. Others look on from the left hand side as the angel delivers this important message. Gabriel is signified by strong wings pertuding from his back, as well as a golden halo which provides another clue. Mary herself leans over and accepts the information willingly. She also has the same golden halo and is similarly dressed in a smart, elegant manner. Fra Angelico became particularly familiar with this scene and experimented with different formats across the alternative versions.

Religious institutions held much of the power and money during this time in Italy's history and that explains why so many artist's careers are filled with scenes from the Bible. They could not have successful careers without including these subjects and their main roles would be in helping the Church to decorate their many buildings. The installed pieces which were painted directly onto the wall would be very hard to move, and so many still remain in their original locations. Alternatively, items that he painted on separate pieces of wooden panel could be re-positioned by the patron, and perhaps later even sold on. The artist used egg tempera as his dominant medium and this was common within the Italian Renaissance for a number of years until the influence of North Europeans such as Van Eyck encouraged them to switch to oils instead.

The artist would spend around two decades working on the Annunciation theme, often collaborating with others in order to bring new ideas into his work. Some of his assistants were particularly respected and he would treat them as equals in some cases. This panel work can today be found at the San Marco Convent in Florence, where it was originally placed. It sits alongside a number of other panel paintings in the convent, with each one following an overall, connected theme. Historians have claimed that the simple nature of the room in this work was done so with the purpose of avoiding the painting's viewers from being distracted from prayer, which his brighter pieces may have resulted in.

Annunciation with Saint Peter Martyr in Detail Fra Angelico