Fra Angelico, Madonna and Child with Saints

Circa 1450
Convent of San Marco, Florence, Italy

On the far left is St. Dominic, the founder of the order that resides in this convent. He is identified by his Dominican habit and the lily stalk that is one of his attributes. He holds a book with the statement CARITATEM HABETE HUMILITATEM SERVATE PAUPERTATEM VOLUNTARIAM POSSIDETE Maledictionem Dei et meam imprecor possessiones in ducenti in meo Ordine, "Have charity, serve humility, keep voluntary poverty. I call down God's curse and mine on those who would bring possessions into my Order." According to Jacobus Voragine, himself a Dominican, these were the words of St. Dominic on his deathbed (Golden Legend #113, Ryan, II, 54).

Next to Dominic are Saints Cosmas and Damian. They are identified by their characteristic hats and identical garments. St. Cosmas was the namesake of Cosimo de' Medici, who supported the convent financially and often stayed there.

Standing next to them is St. Mark, the patron saint of the convent, holding a book with the first three verses of his gospel: Initium Evangelii Jesu Christi, [Filii Dei]. Sicut scriptum est in Isaia propheta: Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui praepara[b]it viam tuam ante te. Vox clamantis in deserto: P…, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ[, the Son of God]. As it is written in Isaias the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. A voice of one crying in the desert: P[repare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.]"

On the right, the first two saints have been identified by one source as Paul and Thomas Aquinas, but they have no attributes and St. Paul's beard and hairline are not as one usually sees in his portraits. The other two are St. Lawrence, with his gridiron, and St. Peter Martyr, with the gash in his head.

It was conventional in the 15th century to emphasize the Christ Child's humanity by picturing him naked, often with his genitalia showing. But the artist has instead emphasized his divinity. He presides from an apse-like niche and holds a mappa mundi orb to symbolize his dominion over the world. His tunic and mantle are arranged in the ancient style echoed by those of St. Mark and St. Paul on his left and right.

The Virgin Mary wears the traditional red robe under a blue mantle with a star on the shoulder.

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Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.