In order to produce a consistent layout, the artist would ensure that each of these paintings was equally sized, so that the three or four rows would line up horizontally and vertically. For this set, which focused on the life of Jesus Christ, the items were each 39cm in height and width. Mystic Wheel (The Vision of Ezekiel) is certainly one of the more interesting works in this group and thankfully most have made it to the present day in relatively good condition. Fra Angelico would use egg tempera for all of the detail in these works, and continued with that medium throughout his career, just as was the way with most other Italian painters during the Early Renaissance. The whole display can now be found in the Museo di San Marco, Florence, and it was in that city that this artist had originally built up such a strong reputation. To date, thirty five panels from this body of work have been uncovered in total, giving us an excellent understanding of the overall project.
The story behind the Armadio degli Argenti, or Silver Chest, is a charming one. Many locals had donated silver items as a sign of respect and love for some of the art displayed within the church of Santissima Annunziata, with some believing it to have been painted by an angel. It was decided that such generosity should be rewarded by adorning a cupboard with some wonderful art, and then storing these silver items within it. Fra Angelico was therefore commissioned to provide paintings that could fit within each compartment and really celebrate the generosity of local people. There had already been a number of other commissions for other elements of the church and so this project just seemed to be a natural extension of what had already been achieved. Those tasks had fallen to the likes of Michelozzo but it was Fra Angelico who was to be chosen for these decorative panel paintings.
If we look directly at the composition itself, we find prophet Ezekiel and St Gregory the Great sat below the wheel, whilst out in a mountainous landscape. The wheel features a number of individual figures sectioned off into individual compartments, with names listed alongside. There is also an inner and outer row to the wheel which allows more figures to be added. The two different rows refer to different elements of Christianity, with one discussing the creation from Genesis, and the other concerned with three verses of the Gospel of St. John. Further elements of scripture are then placed in the upper part of the painting, just behind the wheel.
Piero de Medici would commission this project and his family more generally were heavily involved in the arts. They entirely understood the role that it could play in promoting individual Italian kingdoms and they were more than happy to use their wealth to attract the biggest names to work on various projects for the local community. The work of Fra Angelico lasted from around 1450 to 1452 as part of a larger renovation of the entire chapel, with his own role coming after much of the other tasks had been completed. The artist had recently spent time across in Rome and perhaps enjoyed returning to Florence in order to take on this important commission which remains one of his most exciting and ambitious achievements.