(Giovanni da Fiesole) (c.
Italian painter celebrated for his frescoes in the convent of
S. Marco, Florence. In 1407 he entered the Dominican convent of S.
Domenico, Fiesole, near Florence, of which he was later prior (1449-52).
Papal politics forced the community to leave Fiesole (1409-18) and some
time after their return A. began to paint; nothing is known about his
early training but he shows the influence of such international Gothic
painters as Monaco. He executed
(c.1428—33) an altarpiece
(extensively altered by di Credi, с 1501) and 3 frescoes (sala
capitolarc of the convent) for his own convent and an Annunciation
for the church of S. Domenico, Cortona; these foreshadow the
simplicity of his mature work. In 1433 he was commissioned to paint the 'Linaiuoli'
or Linen-workers' triptych, particularly famous for the 12 angels playing
on musical instruments which decorate the frame surrounding the central
figures of the Virgin and Child. Two triptychs, painted after this tor the
churches of S. Domenico, Cortona and Perugia in the Gothic style, show
that A. was attempting to break with the conventions of this form of
altarpiece. In 1436 Cosimo de' Medici commissioned A. to paint 3
altarpieces including the high altar for the Dominican convent of S.
Marco, Florence — Virgin and Child Unthroned with SS Cosmas and Damian
(1438—40). In these and the slightly earlier Coronation of the
Virgin for Fiesole the figures of saints and angels recede towards the
central figure, marking a step in the development of the sacra
conversazione altarpiece. A. also uses single panels instead of the
triptych and completely abandons the Gothic gold background; in the S.
Marco altarpiece he introduces landscape background. The predella scenes
for this altarpiece from the lives of SS Cosinas and Damian
illustrate A.'s excellence as a colourist and are his most lively
narrative paintings. A. began, about this time, to supervise the painting
of 50 frescoes of scenes from the life of Christ for the cells of the
convent of S. Marco; he himself probably painted not more than 10. Their
setting and purpose, which was not decorative but to act as an aid to
meditation, were ideally suited to the direct and simple piety
characteristic of A.'s painting. Those by him are the most straightforward
and hence most effectively fulfil their purpose. In 1447 he was in Orvieto
where he painted The Last Judgement, finished by Signorelh, and in
Rome executing decorative work in the Vatican for Pope Nicholas V. Only
his frescoes in the chapel of Nicholas V (1447/8) survive. In keeping with
their setting these are richer and more complex than any of A.'s previous
work. A. died in Rome. Much of A.'s work refers back to Giotto and he took
no part in the artistic experiments and secular interests of his
contemporaries, although he utilized new visual techniques such as
perspective if they served the devotional purpose of his painting. Gozzoli
was his pupil.