(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)

Adoration of the Magi and Man of Sorrows (Cell 39)

Fresco, 1175 x 357 cm
Convento di San Marco, Florence

This is the fresco on the wall of Cell 39 of the Convento di San Marco in Florence.

One cell at the end of the corridor for lay brothers was distinguished by its occupant and size. It was intended for Cosimo de' Medici, who belonged to the community by virtue of his patronage. His room, in fact, was a double cell (Cells 38 and 39), in which the superimposed chambers were joined by a short flight of stairs. Of all the cells along this corridor, Cosimo's was the most spacious and elaborately decorated. On the entrance wall of the lower room (Cell 38) Fra Angelico painted the crucified Christ against a ground of costly lapis lazuli, rather than the bare plaster background found in the other cells. The inscribed haloes identify the saints kneeling alongside the Virgin as Cosmas, Peter martyr and John the Evangelist, protectors of Cosimo, his oldest son, and his father, Giovanni di Bicci.

The Adoration of the Magi and the image of Christ as Man of Sorrows in the recessed tabernacle below met Cosimo's gaze once he ascended the stairs to Cell 39. Benozzo Gozzoli, whose style closely resembled that of Angelico, and an assistant painted these frescoes, as shown by the slightly awkward stance and proportions of some of the figures as well as by their linear, closely spaced facial features.