Fra Giovanni da Fiesole ~a.k.a.~ Beato Angelico Cristo Deriso (The Mocking of Christ) 1438
Museum of San Marco, Florence
I’m having a hard time stepping away from religious themes right now without feeling like I’m jumping too far ahead, but this portrait of Christ is delightfully strange. So, what is it that makes this fresco famous? Well, first off let me give you a little bit of background, then I’ll get right to that.
Beato Angelico was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici between 1438-1445 to decorate the Church of San Marco. For those of you unfamiliar with the lore of Florence, Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Medici family ruled and funded Florence during the Renaissance, and and San Marco is located in downtown Florence (It’s even where I get off the bus to go downtown :P). Fra Angelico (as he is referred to by English speakers) spent those years painting frescoes that featured the episodes of Christ and his apostles in each of the upstairs cells of the convent. I wish I could find a source to give the exact number of frescoes in this building, but from what I remember there were around 30 of them. He didn’t just paint the cells. He also decorated the hallways! Needless to say, this project was a pretty big deal.
So, what is it that makes this Fresco really so valuable against the rest of Angelico’s work and that of his peers? It’s the use of mysterious symbols in describing this scene of suffering. One theory says that this piece is a projection of the reflections of the two figures sitting in front of him. I guess that would mean his loved ones remembered him with floating hands holding sticks, but seriously you will find that almost every other Renaissance piece up to this fresco were designed provide a narration. Here we’re looking at a symbolic representation for the suffering of Christ for monks of the convent to meditate on, heavy stuff.
Jesus sits blindfolded upon a red box, which is a sort of mocked throne, giving into the essential prospective of the Renaissance. If you look closely you will see that under the blindfold Jesus’s eyes are cast down in shame. I don’t have an explanation to each symbol, but the green backdrop was something reserved for displaying figures of glory. Either that’s the artists way of paying his respects or it’s an ironic medium used to highlight the patronization of Christ. Beato Angelico doesn’t exactly seem to be the type for sacrilege. I better not let my imagination get the best of me on that subject. Anyway, Beato Angelico is admired for his use of bright colors, and the green does provide a rather lovely contrast.
Hmmmm, so…. what else can I say about this Fresco? The geometrical importance of the painting can also be seen in the triangular scheme that is made up by the disposition of Mary, St. Dominic, and Jesus. The other thing I wanted to mention was the halo. In every piece by Beato Angelico that includes Jesus, he uses a red cross in the aura to mark Christ. One of those stylistic details that I found sets the artist apart from the other religious art of his time.
If you’re still not convinced that this painting rocks, I just want to point out the floating, Robin Hood head that’s spitting in Jesus’s face. It’s probably meant to be a basic metaphor, but I still think it’s funny.