(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)
Mystic Wheel (The Vision of Ezekiel)1451-52
Tempera on panel, 39 x 39 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence
This panel is part of a series, now consisting of thirty-five panels, commissioned by Piero de Medici for the doors of a cupboard at the San Marco convent, and depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
In this, the first panel, the prophet Ezekiel and St Gregory the Great sit in a mountainous landscape with the river Chobar running between them. In the top left of the panel is a text from the first book of Ezekiel outlining the prophet's vision, which is shown below. Ezekiel leans back, his hands raised in surprise. His vision included four animalia who, 'had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel', (Ezekiel 1, v. 16). It is this wheel within a wheel which is shown here with a flaming circumference. Angelico depicts the wheel as being made of two concentric circles. Around the larger wheel is the account of the creation from Genesis, and around the smaller the first three verses of the Gospel of St. John, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God ...', which echo the words from Genesis.
At the top right of the picture is an excerpt from the writings of St Gregory, who interpreted the prophet's vision and used it to emphasize parallels between the Old and New Testaments. The theme of parallels between the two Testaments is pursued through all the other panels in the series.