(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)
Deposition from the Cross (Pala di Santa Trinità)1437-40
Tempera on panel, 176 x 185 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence
This work was originally commissioned by Palla Strozzi from Lorenzo Monaco, for the sacristy of the church of Santa Trinità in Florence, but by the time of Monaco's death only the pinnacles of this work had been painted. When Angelico took over the commission he found himself cribbed and confined by Monaco's ready-made triple-arched Gothic frame. He ignored these constraints, however, making skilful use of the three arches in his composition to provide a scene of stunning beauty and subdued yet poignant emotion, set in an expansive Tuscan landscape. Although the work is painted on one panel, the three arches of the frame find an echo in the placing of the figures in three groups.
The central arch is largely blocked off by the wooden framework of the cross and two ladders. The cross bar of the former appears to run behind the picture frame hinting at further, obscured space. With no scene behind but the sky and the lattice work of timber, the eye is drawn to the body of Christ which is at the very centre of the picture. Angelico challenges the tendency of the other two arches to define the shape and space of the work by placing a strong vertical, in the form of a tower or a tree, in the corners of each. The pilasters on either side of the frame contain twelve panels with full length portraits of saints, and eight medallions with portrait busts. The full-length figures are shown standing on columns which are each painted with careful attention to the view-point of the spectator.