Pub. Date:
Penn State University Press
How Fra Angelico and Signorelli Saw the End of the World

How Fra Angelico and Signorelli Saw the End of the World

by Creighton E. Gilbert


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The frescoes of the Cappella Nuova in the Cathedral of Orvieto have fascinated visitors from Michelangelo to Freud and Czeław Miłosz because of their dramatic portrayal of the end of the world and the Last Judgment. Creighton Gilbert’s study draws on previously overlooked documents to explain the commissioning of this extraordinary cycle of paintings, begun by Fra Angelico in the early 1400s and completed a half-century later by Luca Signorelli. In contrast to most other art historians, who ascribe the iconographic and formal structure of the paintings to Signorelli, Gilbert contends that his predecessor, Fra Angelico, devised the entire program of decoration. Gilbert also situates the cycle in the contexts of liturgical practice, humanistic studies, and the rich body of texts and images shaping the Renaissance conception of the coming of the Antichrist and the world’s final moments.

How Fra Angelico and Signorelli Saw the End of the World examines every element in the Cappella Nuova’s architecture and complex decoration, which not only represents the coming of the Antichrist, the end of the world, and the Last Judgment but also, on a high dado, features portraits of Dante and other poets, scenes from their texts, and sinuous grotesque ornament. Although Dante’s likeness has long been recognized, Gilbert is the first scholar to establish that his great epic, The Divine Comedy, exerted a profound influence on the Chapel’s iconographic program.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271021409
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 11/28/2002
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Creighton Gilbert is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, Yale University. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Art Bulletin and has published numerous books, including Caravaggio and His Two Cardinals (Penn State, 1995) and Michelangelo On and Off the Sistine Chapel (1994).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Chapter 1The Place as a Precondition1
Chapter 2Planning the Frescoes23
Chapter 3Intermission, 1448-149961
Chapter 4Signorelli Paints the Inner Bay71
Chapter 5The Imagery of the Outer Bay117

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