This delightful chapel was actually used by Nicholas V in secret privacy, giving it a very personal atmosphere. Some respected historians have actually pointed to these frescoes being the finest achievement from Fra Angelico's entire career, underlining the beauty and technical brilliance of his work within this small chapel. Saint Stephen is believed to have been the very first Christian martyr, and his constant preaching is believed to have led to him being removed from the city in which he lived and then stoned to death. Indeed, this preaching is captured in one of the other frescoes, and these two join together with a curved top which takes care of the particular architectural design of the wall on which the frescoes were placed. Fra Angelico would regularly have to crop and plan around unusual shapes for his installed pieces.
In this composition we find Saint Stephen pointing directly to others, giving his welcome advice. The other figures sport long beards, suggesting that he is in the company of wise men and their clothing is smart and bright, with elegant robes. The saint's halo is featured here and continues into the other depictions of his image in the adjoining frescoes. The artist then decorates the surrounding stone work with some stunning details, with a profile of the city then placed in the top end of the painting which helps to set the scene. Fra Angelico was able to master a number of different genres that could then be fused together into elaborate compositions such as these. The use of perspective within art was also undergoing considerable change during the 15th century, making frescoes such as Saint Stephen Addressing the Council and Saint Stephen Preaching particularly important.
The artist was attempting to draw the Church of Rome and Jerusalem closer together through these various artworks. In some cases religious art would put the divine alongside people from the present day in order to promote their own virtue. This was common with patrons who wanted to protect and promote themselves, with many of these artworks remaining in tact even after their passing. One could therefore alter their own legacy, to a point, by including themselves within some of these fabulous depictions. One of the challenges to the Church was always to provide a connection between the iconic figures of the religion and the common man, who would have their own problems to deal with in their relatively simple lives.