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

Lunette of the east wall

1447-49
Fresco, 322 x 473 cm
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The lunette represents two scenes: St Stephen being led to His Martyrdom; Stoning of St Stephen.

Stephen had been blessed by the Apostles and was the first to be ordained as deacon. Accused of blasphemy, he was stoned to death in Jerusalem. According to legend his remains were taken to Rome in the fifth century and buried beside those of St Lawrence.

This lunette is divided in two by the monumental city wall which forms a natural part of both the scenes portrayed. The soft hills strewn with collections of towers and houses are in Angelico's familiar landscape style. All lit from the same source, the lunette has a complete spatial unity.

On the left St Stephen, having incurred the wrath of the council, is dragged to the city gate and meets his fate outside it as the first Christian martyr. On the right he is portrayed at prayer. Around him are the stones which have bloodied his face; two more bounce off the back of his head; one of his executioners raises another one high, about to strike again, and holds more in his robe. Saul, who was a consenting witness to the execution, is shown, following the details given in the Acts of the Apostles, as a young man holding part of Stephen's clothes which had been laid at his feet by the witnesses.