“Scenes from the life of St. Nicholas”, Fra Beato Angelico – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Scenes from the life of St. Nicholas – Fra Beato Angelico (Fra Giovanni Da Fiesole). Around 1437. Wood, tempera. 35×61.5
Beato Angelico, whose painting is imbued with a bright, prayerful mood, wrote this altar triptych for the chapel of San Niccolo of the Church of San Domenico in Perugia. Two picturesque plaques that made up the predella of the altar, dedicated to stories from the life of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, are kept in the Vatican Pinakothek.

The painter, which was usual for him, even built a precise architectural place in a small composition, dividing the image into three parts. The first (left) presents scene of the birth of the saint, in the second (center) – his sermons and in the third (right) – the story of how Nicholas gave the dowry to three poor girls.

Beato Angelico is an excellent storyteller. In the room, against the far wall – the painter even knows how to distinguish the depth of the interior in a work of small size – there is a bed on which the woman in labor lies. Immediately, closer to the entrance, the maid washes the newborn. In the middle part of the composition depicts a young Nicholas listening to a church sermon. The action takes place in a greenish flower-strewn glade, in front of the church, from the pulpit of which the priest pronounces the words.

On the left is a scene with the miracle of St. Nicholas: God announced to him that some impoverished man decides to make 3 of his daughters harlots in order to earn money, and secretly tossed a bag of gold to them on holy night. Here again is shown the room of the house, on the open door of which are visible the three innocent girls sleeping on the bed and their unhappy father, dozing, sitting on a chair. Nicholas, according to legend, is depicted throwing a bag through the window, and the door is open only so that the prayers can see the story.

The medieval tradition of detailed, colorful painting is adjacent to Beato Angelico with a spatial perspective and volumetric figures of characters. In addition, working a lot on wall paintings, the artist transferred the majesty of the image to his easel work."

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