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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Saint Cosmo and Damian Condemned to Burning at the Stake

Fra Angelico

Saint Cosmo and Damian Condemned to Burning at the Stake - Fra Angelico

© Roger-Viollet

View this work in the exhibition Fire

The work

In 1436, the Florentine monastery of San Marco was assigned to the Dominicans of Fiesole. At the request of the Medicis, Florence's art patron-princes, the buildings were partially rebuilt and decorated. That is how Fra Angelico came to paint, beginning in 1439, a number of frescoes on the chapel, cell and dormitory walls, including this episode depicting the martyrdom of Saint Cosmo and Saint-Damian. Their quality shows Fra Angelico's great mastery of the art. Indeed, depositing pigments on a freshly coated wall—hence the name "al fresco" for the painting technique—requires the artist to work swiftly and without hesitation.

The artist

Fra Angelico's art career is interwoven with his religious journey. Born in the late 14th century near Florence, Guido de Piero trained as a painter in circumstances that remain obscure, while simultaneously entering the Dominican monastery in Fiesole. Under the name Fra Giovanni, he spent his entire life in this mendicant order, which was expanding rapidly at the time. So it was as a Dominican monk that Guido de Piero created his body of art, decorating the library and church of the San Marco monastery in Florence, for example. He also worked several times for the Papacy, after being honored by Pope Eugene IV, who had come to consecrate the monastery church of San Marco. However, he did not neglect his vocation as a Dominican, serving as the Prior of his Fiesole monastery, where he died in 1455. Considered in his lifetime a towering artist dedicated to God's glory, he was given the epithet Angelicus Pictor, hence his posthumous name Fra Angelico.