2012: Advent Art History: Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar – December 11

by on December 11, 2012

The Virgin of Humility


Fra Angelico (Italian, 1390/5-1455)

Tempera on panel

29 1/8 x 24 inches

Fra Angelico was a monk and painter in Florence. Like with a lot of early Renaissance artists, Fra Angelico wasn’t actually his name, it was a name given to him by his contemporaries because of his personality and his particular painterly style. His actual name was Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. The Fra part means brother, because he was a monk, and Fiesole was the town of his origin, not his family name.

He painted in tempera on panel, rather than the oils which were favoured by the Northern Renaissance artists, and in fresco. His work is softer and the colours have less contrast in comparison with yesterday’s image because of this difference in medium.

The Virgin holds a lily, symbol of her purity, and wears an ultramarine cloak. As most of you will undoubtedly know, ultramarine was the most expensive pigment, as it’s made from ground up lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone that was only found in certain mines in what is now Afghanistan during the C15th. Hence it had to be imported a seriously long way, and was worth more, weight for weight, than gold.

I’ll be including a few more Italians soon, and shock horror the baby Jesus sometimes has a little veil. I’m still counting him as essentially nude for the purposes of this calendar though, as those images are lovely.

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