ANDREA DA FIRENZE
(active 1343-1377, Firenze)

The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas (west wall)

1366-67
Fresco
Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

While the main thematic emphasis on the east wall is on the pastoral and missionary work of the Dominicans, the fresco on the west wall - which is generally known as the Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas, even if this is not an accurate description - has as its fundamental theme the scientific and academic contributions of the order, exemplified in the person of Aquinas.

The composition is strictly schematic and joins a wealth of personifications and historical exempla in a serial and symmetric arrangement. In the middle of the upper section, St Thomas Aquinas, seated on a throne and surrounded by an aureole, presents an open book to the viewer. Floating above the saint's throne are the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues, the topmost being Caritas. Seated to the left of Thomas, from the viewer's standpoint, are Job, David, Paul, Mark, and John the Evangelist; to the right, Solomon, Isaiah, Moses, Luke, and Matthew. Crouching at the feet of the saint, their bearing and gestures expressing resignation, are the heretics, Sabellius, Averroës, and Arius.

In the lower register a uniform row of fourteen thrones extends like a line of choir stalls across the wall. Seated on the thrones on the right side are female personifications of the liberal arts, their antique and biblical representatives at their feet. The identification of the female figures on the left side is more difficult. According to Vasari they represent the seven theological sciences, but there are other assumptions, too.




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