Testa d’angelo (c.1445-1450)

Angelico, Fra (c.1395-1455)

Testa d’angelo (Head of an Angel)
Tempera and oil on panel, 17.1 x 14 cm
Wadsworth AtheneumHartford

This small panel is a portion of an altarpiece depicting the Virgin and Christ Child, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. With a gesture of honor and devotion, the angel holds up a cloth (fully visible in the Amsterdam panel) behind the seated Virgin. The cloth’s bold red and black pattern complements the angel’s extraordinary wings. The delicate features of the angel, such as the elegant neck and tender glance, demonstrate Fra Angelico’s ability to paint religious subjects in a restrained yet compelling and lively manner—qualities that solidified his reputation as one of the most innovative artists of the early Renaissance. Born outside Florence, Guido di Pietro was already an established artist when he joined the Dominican Order around 1420. Throughout his career, several religious institutions, including his own monastery, commissioned him to paint major altarpieces. Soon after his death, the artist was named “pictor angelicus” (the angelic painter) and became known as Fra Angelico. (WA)