The content found here feels much more akin to some of the work of North European artists such as Bruegel and Bosch, who gifted us the likes of The Hunters in Snow and The Garden of Earthly Delights. Fra Angelico here follows a similar routine of placing small figures individually across a complex scene, featuring hills, mountains, rock formations, rivers, roads and small buildings. You may notice the interesting use of perspective which was common during this era, where all of the figures are placed side on, almost regardless of the angles of the roads on which they travelled. If we examine the title of the work, "Scenes from the Lives...", we then understand more about just what we are looking at here. There are essentially a number of different artworks that have been merged together into one overall landscape. It is important to remember that Fra Angelico was relatively young when he produced this painting, as it is approximately dated at around circa 1417–1423, and it would be some time before his signature touches would start to appear for the first time.
Early hermits were believed to have moved to the Theban and Nitrian deserts in Egypt and this would provide the inspiration for a number of paintings within the Italian Renaissance. Italians in this era seemed fascinated by their activities, and many publications around it were translated into Italian. Soon artworks depicting their lives would appear in cities such as Pisa, Siena and Florence, raising the awareness of the public too. Fra Angelico chose to tackle this subject himself upon a wooden panel which was sized at 105cm in width and 74cm in height. He would use egg tempera, but there was none of the golden tones which became common later in his career. This piece therefore feels a little more modest, perhaps in keeping with the activities of the monks that it features so prominently.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary, host this painting as part of their wide selection of art from the old masters, which takes in artists from the European Renaissance and Baroque eras. They possess one of the finest collections in the world, with most major name from 1300-1800 featured somewhere within these walls. The display is within some stunning architecture too, which is entirely fitting for such an establishment. Other great names to look out for, for those fortunate enough to visit the museum include the likes of Eugène Delacroix, Tintoretto, Giorgione, El Greco and Titian, although, in truth, there simply are far too many to mention them all in this short article here. There is also elsewhere in the same building some delightful sculpture to enjoy as well, from some other items from ancient Egypt too.