Frescoes in the Cappella Niccolina of the Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican (1447-49)
by Fra ANGELICO

Under the pontificate of Nicholas V (1447-55) the Vatican became a court of the muses. The pope chief interest in the realm of arts was the embellishment of Rome. Fra Angelico took up his work in the Vatican for painting the pope's private chapel. The Cappella Niccolina is on the second floor of the Palazzo Vaticano (now part of the Vatican Museums). Three walls are covered with frescoes representing scenes from the lives of St Stephen and St Lawrence, two archdeacons who had been widely venerated in Rome since the early Middle Ages. The fresco on the altar wall (the south wall) had been destroyed. According to Vasari, this wall was adorned with an Entombment of Christ by Fra Angelico.

Fra Angelico was able to accomplish this considerable amount of work only with the assistance of a large workshop. In addition to Benozzo Gozzoli we know the names of other collaborators, although it is impossible to identify their individual contributions. Stylistic analysis has determined that the scenes from the life of St Lawrence were largely the work of Fra Angelico, while there was a greater contribution of the workshop, especially Benozzo Gozzoli, to the execution of the scenes in the lunettes.

The paintings are markedly different in emphasis from those of Angelico's in the San Marco. The purpose of these Roman frescoes was narrative, and to assist in the telling of his story Angelico used a richness of detail, multiformity of incident, number of figures and wealth of colour which has no parallel in the earlier work.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 10 minutes):
Orlando Gibbons: Te Deum


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
View of the chapel
1447-49
Fresco
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

900*1088
True Color
192 Kb



Scenes from the Lives of Sts Lawrence and Stephen
1447-49
Fresco
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

801*983
True Color
196 Kb



View of the chapel vaulting
1447-49
Fresco
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

872*1100
True Color
195 Kb



View of the chapel vaulting
1447-49
Fresco
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

848*1010
True Color
192 Kb



View of the chapel vaulting
1447-49
Fresco
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

939*1100
True Color
222 Kb




Summary of paintings by Fra Angelico
Altarpieces
San Domenico | Prado | Linaioli | Last Judgment | Annunciation
Cortona Triptych | Perugia | San Marco | Trinitŕ | Various
Frescoes
Convent of San Marco: cells, others | Cappella Niccolina
Other works
Armadio degli Argenti | Various panels | Miscellaneous