Fra Angelico and The Masters of Light – ATL Xmas Special

Guest reporter Caroline Nivison experienced the magic of the Musee Jacquemart-Andre and this impossibly beautiful show in Paris just in time for Christmas. Wishing peace and joy to all our readers and the best in art, travel and life for the coming year.


Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455), 1428-1430, National Gallery, Parma. 128 x 68 cm tempera on wood.© 2011. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali

The Musee Jacquemart-Andre is a former opulent mid 19th century residence owned by banker Eduouard Andre and his social portraitist wife Nellie Jacquemart. The couple had no children, a fortune and a love of art and travel. This extraordinary museum is their legacy.

"Once inside you are swept upstairs by a gorgeous double curving staircase and immediately feel welcome and full of anticipation. This was a house that was intending to impress yet somehow it has retained taste and dignity and warmth, despite the rather amazing fact that the walls in the reception rooms could be lowered into the floor so creating an area big enough to entertain 1,000 of your closest friends.

"We wandered through their collection, through formal and smaller rooms filled with beautiful furniture and furnishings, art, a bathroom to die for and beds for short people. (Interestingly her bed was bigger than his.)

Still, nothing could prepare us for the exquisiteness of Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light, a lovingly curated exhibition of nearly 25 major works by Fra Angelico and a similar number of panels by his prestigious contemporaries.


Clockwise from top: • Fra Angelico (vers 1400-1455) Circa 1437, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome – Vatican Museums, Vatican City. 35 x 61.5 cm tempera and gold on wood. © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence. • Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455) Circa 1423, National Museum of San Matteo, Pisa. 102 x 58 cm tempera on wood. © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali • Fra Angelico (1387-1455) 1434-1435 Uffizi Gallery, Firenze. 114 × 113 cm tempera on wood. © 2010. Photo Scala, Florence - courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali • Gentile da Fabriano (circa 1370-1427) Circa 1415, Magnani Rocca Foundation, Parma. 89 x 65 cm tempera on wood. © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence

"To get inches away from the surface of a fifteenth century Fra Angelico painting and revel in the detail and luminosity without alarms or guards is very special. Some of the standout works are by his contemporaries – Uccello and Filippo Lippi. It was also fascinating to see the work of his master and mentor Lorenzo Monaco, a Florentine manuscript illuminator, along with Fra Angelico’s early International Gothic collaborative illuminations. The quality of light created by the use of gold leaf and semi- precious stones such as lapis lazuli ground for pigment is simply astonishing, and despite the traditional subject matter even faces in the crowd seem like small portraits of individuals, not stylised - a great step at the time.


Domenico di Michelino (1417-1491), Zanobi Strozzi (1412-1468) et Giovanni di Consalvo (active in Florence between 1436 and 1439) 1441-1442, Museo Civico, Prato. 17.3 x 44 cm / 17.6 x 46.8 cm / 17.5 x 47 cm tempera on wood. © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence

"One thinks of Fra Angelico in relation to his famous frescos in San Marco but all the works shown here are of course portable and have a feeling of the precious object about them. The entire show has a gentle intimacy that is rare in this age of blockbuster shows. We left with a feeling of privilege.”


Zanobi Strozzi (1412-1468) Circa 1448-1450, Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, donation by Antonio and Bianca Leonardi 2001. 83.5 x 56.8 cm tempera on wood. © Milano, Museo Poldi Pezzoli

With sincere thanks to Caroline Nivison for her report, all rights reserved. Images courtesy of Musee Jacquemart-Andre, copyright as credited.

The “Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light” exhibition, 23 September 2011 – 16th January 2012 at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum in Paris is being held in partnership with major Italian museums – including the Uffizi Gallery – and internationally famous collections.