As with other items within this series, Saint Lawrence Giving Alms combines figurative and architectural content. The Saint is positioned centrally, surrounded by a number of local people, one of whom is sat on the ground in front of him. He looks stunning in a bright, highly detailed outfit which immediately captures our eye. We then look further back and see a number of stone columns which lead all the way to the back of the painting. Before those is a face to the left and right which allows the artist to incorporate some artistic touches on the walls on the nearest side of the building. Fra Angelico liked to contrast with the plain tones of the stone work with brighter colours for the clothing of each figure, regardless of their significance within the overall painting. The Chapel of Saint Nicholas V remains a popular venue in the present day and is sometimes known by the alternative name of the Niccoline Chapel.
Pope Nicholas V requested this chapel to be built and decorated to give him somewhere to pray alone and in secrecy. He served as Pope until his death in 1455, just a few years after the frescoes were completed and he served in this prominent role within the Catholic Church for around eight years in total. As a mark of his importance, he would also have his own portrait produced by Peter Paul Rubens in around 1610 and his spirit lives on through the work of Fra Angelico and his assistants. This was a Pope who was particularly interested in art and cultural pursuits, more generally. He organised a new library within the Vatican and would keep some of its finest items to himself. The work produced for him by Fra Angelico has also been described by some as amongst the most impressive across his entire career, perhaps aided by the creative freedom afforded to him by the Pope who would put forward the themes to be covered in the series, but allowed the artists to formulate the compositions themselves.
The artist, in collaboration with his assistants, would feature the life of Saint Lawrence several times within the fresco series. Some of the other scenes included Ordination of Saint Lawrence and Saint Lawrence Receiving the Treasures of the Church from Pope Sixtus II. They purposely follow a consistent stylistic approach in order for the final project to fuse together seamlessly, also tweaked to suit the intricate details of the building in which they were added. Thankfully, the prominent status of the Vatican city itself has ensured that all artworks within it have been preserved and restored several times over the past few centuries so that tourists today can enjoy them almost in the same way in which they would have appeared during the Pope's own lifetime. He passed away just a few years after the project was completed, but would have had several years to pray in private here, no doubt appreciative of the work completed by the Italian master.