Among the many Florentine painters of the fifteenth century I wanted my students to know something about is Fra Angelico. He was named "Angelico" because of the heavenly beauty of his paintings, with colors in bright crimsons and deep blues and the figures simply painted. He was born Guido, but took the name Fra (Brother) John when we entered the Dominican Order. As a Dominican Monk, he painted more than fifty frescoes in the tiny cells of his monastery at San Marco. Besides the paintings, he spent many hours making illuminations which were written by hand on parchment.
"Surely the good monk visited Paradise and was allowed to choose his models there."
This week we chose just to look closely at the picture. We looked at this picture over dinner and, passing it around, make comments. No one had any trouble knowing who the main figures in the painting were. We guessed who the men around might be with the suggestion that they might be saints who started monastic orders. We talked about the bright colors and the ball in Jesus' hand. The shell design in the wall behind Mary was noted and appreciated. The gold leaf all over the painting was noted and we talked about how it was real gold, tissue-paper thin. Next week we might complete a project with gold paint.