Fra Angelico, “The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin (detail),” 1430-1434, tempera on panel, 24 5/16 x 15 1/16 inches, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

For the first time ever, four newly restored reliquaries that were painted by Renaissance icon Fra Angelico for the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence between 1424 and 1434 will be reunited during a blockbuster exhibition. Where?

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston will be the sole venue for “Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth,” opening February 22 and continuing through May 28. Angelico (circa 1400-1455) was celebrated in his time as the most famous painter in Italy, and any opportunity to view his masterpieces outside Europe is one worth taking.

“With remarkable ingenuity and rare technical expertise, Angelico reconceived popular compositions and infused familiar Christian stories with new meaning,” the Gardner reports. “His iconic altarpieces and frescoes — painted for two Popes, members of the Medici family of Florence, and the city’s merchant elite — transformed Western art. They secured his place in history and forged the future of painting in Italy.

“Heaven on Earth” brings together choice examples of Angelico’s narrative art, inviting visitors to experience the wonder of his breathtaking stories up close and in a new light. “Two monumental altarpieces, an intricate series of panels from his Silver Chest, a previous triptych for private devotion, and nine predella scenes join the four reliquaries in a dramatic installation evocative of their Renaissance context,” the Gardner continues. “Many of these works are visiting the United States for the first time in over 40 years at the museum.”

Dr. Nathaniel Silver, the Gardner’s associate curator of collections, added, “Although separated for over 200 years, these four precious painted reliquaries showcase Fra Angelico’s peerless creativity and unparalleled technical accomplishments. The reliquaries, carefully selected altarpieces, furniture panels, and a triptych illuminate the relationship between form and function, revealing how the artist shaped each story for its intended purpose.”

To learn more, visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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