Ghiberti and Fra Angelico

I hope everyone is warm and safe today. My family was one of the millions trapped inside the “Polar Vortex” this week. The town shut down. There were no sports events, no church events, and even after the polar vortex had retreated slightly, we had to cancel our community day because several inches of snow fell over un-plowed roads. The news was saying there were wrecks up and down the interstate in my area (which is usually kept pretty clean and dry) because there were spots of black ice and apparently, those things are great at sneak attacks. I’m from Michigan–I can drive through several inches of snow with a good enough vehicle, but I don’t think ANYONE likes ice.

My family spent the week wearing two to four layers of clothes INSIDE the house (yes, our furnace was working), and sucking down hot cocoa, hot tea, or even just hot water. Soup–LOTS of soup. Kids being kids of course, I’m occasionally reduced to saying things like, “What do you mean, you don’t want to wear socks but why are you cold?” or “I know it’s your favorite shirt, but it’s a summer shirt, you need to wear something under it!” or my personal favorite, “Yes you’re wearing boots, but in these temps, you MUST wear socks too! I don’t care if your favorite socks are in the hamper, wear ANY socks! Not those socks…your toes are sticking out of those…how did they get back in your drawer?”


But I digress.

Here is Lorenzo Ghiberti and Fra Angelico. I wish I could have spent more time on them, especially Ghiberti and his rivalry with fellow artist Filippo Brunelleschi, but I couldn’t and still get these done. Needless to say, I’ve been loving reading about these artists and all the crazy things they said and did. The pranks they played or left in their art, the techniques they had to develop, the machines they designed, the lengths they went to try something new (sometimes, with spectacular failure as much as success).

Ghiberti was all ambition, even at a young age, and used his talents to build a multi-generational studio plus owning several farms and working his way up the social ladder of Florence. He recovered some ancient techniques for casting, learned perspective from Brunelleschi and/or Donatello (yup, THAT Donatello), and created a style so new, it literally laid the groundwork for the Renaissance “style” which was distinct from the Medieval/Gothic style.

Even Michelangelo, as an escaped student playing hookey from school, would be found in front of the doors he named, “The Gates of of Paradise”. The name stuck to this day.

The “Gates of Jericho” by Ghiberti.

Fra Angelico was very different. At first, I wanted to know, “Who names himself ‘Brother Angelic’?”, but I should have known better. He actually took the name “Brother John” and “of Fiesole” was added to the name to separate him from the many, many other “Brother Johns” in Christendom at the time. But his attitude, humility, work, and kindness to everyone around him caused many to remark on his “angelic” life. It was only after death he became known as “Angelic Brother”, and the name stuck. After he was Beautified in 1982, he also became known by the name “Beato Angelico”, or “Blessed Angelic One”.

His painting was considered to be “rare and perfect” by Giorgio Vasari, the first art historian in Europe. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but his work really is lush and gorgeous, full of color and movement and glorious gilding.

Fra Angelico’s “Descent from the Cross”. Vasari called his piece so beautiful “it had to be painted by a saint or an angel.” Now in the museum of San Marco, Florence, Italy.

Anyway, here’s the resource packets for you, enjoy!