ANGELICO, Fra_La Virgen de la Humildad, c. 1433-1435_7 (1986.10)

 If the land that Jesus walked on is Holy, imagine the tomb that bore Him

 The Madonna of Humility is a painting by the famous Fra Angelico. Born Guido di Pietro, the honorary epithet of ‘Fra Angelico’ or ‘the Angelic Brother’ was attributed to the painter after his death in 1455. His love for Christ led him to join the religious order of the Dominicans between 1418 and 1421. 

Vasari, the great author of the ‘Lives of Artists’ (1550), describes Angelico as a ‘simple and most holy man who painted with facility and piety’. The art historian adds, ‘Fra Angelico never set his hand to a brush without first saying a prayer. He never painted a crucifix without tears streaming down his cheeks. He befriended the poor and now is befriended by Heaven’. Holding to Vasari’s words, in 1982, St. Pope John Paul II proclaimed the beatification of this ‘Blessed’ painter. He recognized him as the ‘Saint of all Artists’.

The beauty and essence of the painter’s life are reflected in today’s canvas. Titled ‘The Madonna of Humility’, the composition belongs to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. It is currently conserved on loan at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona.

Unlike popular medieval representations, the Blessed Virgin is not seated on a majestic Gothic throne. Rather the Virgin of humility rests against a cushion directly placed on the ground. She is cloaked in blue (divinity), red (humanity), green (life), and gold (glory). Executed with meticulous foreshortening, her flowing drapery lends movement to the still image. A little star twinkles upon her right shoulder. Could it serve to remind us of the guiding star of Bethlehem? Further does it not hail Mary as our guiding star, who continues to lead us to her Son Jesus?

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