The Works of Fra Angelico – The Deposition

The Deposition from the Cross, by Fra Angelico“Among the panels painted by Fra Angelico for the Florentine churches and convents,” writes Signor Supino, “the one which excels all in intensity of sentiment and sincerity of expression is ‘The Deposition,’ once in the sacristy of the Church of Santa Trinita, Florence, and now in the Academy of that city; a panel ‘to which,’ Vasari tells us, ‘the artist devoted so much care that it may be numbered among the best of his works.’

“The disciples, with loving reverence, lower the body of the Saviour from the cross, which occupies the center of the composition. The nude body is intelligently rendered in nobility of form, softness of line, and transparency of coloring. A group of women stand on the left: Mary Magdalene, conspicuous by her long yellow hair and red robe, kisses the feet of Christ, and the Madonna gazes upon him in an ecstasy of grief. On the right the disciples discuss the melancholy drama.

“The landscape in the background shows defects of perspective, but the mountains shade off delicately against the distant blue of the sky, the plain is enameled with infinite flowers, and rich verdure clothes the summit of the sacred hill. Although the picture has suffered much at the hands of restorers, the whole work is marked by grandeur and simplicity combined with harmony of coloring, correctness of design, and deep religious feeling.”

That ‘The Deposition’ is one of Fra Angelico’s later works is evidenced by the advance it shows in the drawing and modeling of the drapery and forms. In the figure seated on the step of the ladder, robed in blue and wearing a black cap, the artist has introduced a portrait of his friend Michelozzo, the architect, who, born in 1396, is here shown as a man between forty-five and fifty years of age. This would seem to fix the date of the painting as between 1441 and 1446.