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

Scenes on the north wall

1447-49
Fresco, 271 x 473 cm
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

Below the lunette two scenes are represented: St Sixtus Entrusts the Church Treasures to Lawrence; St Lawrence Distributing Alms.

St Lawrence, a third-century Roman who, like St Stephen, suffered a violent death for his faith, was venerated as one of the most famous martyrs of the city of Rome. This fresco panel is divided in two, without any attempt to give the neighbouring scenes any architectural or spatial cohesion. The architecture employed by Angelico in both scenes is of a distinctly Roman splendour and dignity. The two events from the life of the saint are simply told. They are rich in detail but none is superfluous to the narrative.

On the left he kneels to receive the treasures of the Church from Pope St Sixtus II, who is given the features of Angelico's patron, Nicholas V. It has been suggested that the depiction of the two soldiers preparing to break open a bricked-up door, is a reference to Pope Nicholas's decision to declare 1450 a Jubilee Year.

On the right, St Lawrence is shown framed in the entrance to a colonnaded basilica of great monumentality. The distant apse further frames and gives emphasis to the saint. He is attended by the poor, blind and lame, and hands money to a legless man in the immediate foreground. His scarlet vestment is scattered with golden flames and hints at his future death by burning.