The Annunciation – An Artist’s View
Not only is Fra Angelico’s work artistically innovative, it is also contemplative. This is especially evident in the works painted on the walls of each of the cells occupied by the Dominican friars. These are smaller, often very personal and mystical works, designed to serve the prayer of the occupant and draw him into the mystery of salvation. All the scriptural scenes depicted are made up of faces and landscapes that any inhabitant of Florence and the surrounding countryside would recognise. The event is not some moment in the past, it is now, in this place, and I am part of it. In his use of space and light, and also the quiet dynamism of his scenes – sometimes they appear to anticipate the surreal, especially when they are compositions of the instruments of the passion – Fra Angelico moves away from gothic conventions. The frescoes are sparse, the people and their gestures are clear but not too busy; light and space are created out of the careful interplay of place and people. In this way Fra Angelico produces a sense both of stillness and amplitude, even within a small frame, that makes room for us.