A Bishop Saint

Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro) (Italian, Vicchio di Mugello ca. 1395–1455 Rome)

ca. 1425
Tempera on wood, gold ground
Overall 6 1/4 x 6 1/8 in. (15.9 x 15.6 cm); diameter of roundel 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lucy G. Moses, 1990
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This early work by Fra Angelico dates about 1425 and formed part of the decoration of the frame of an altarpiece still in the church of San Domenico, Fiesole, where the artist was a friar until 1436. The altarpiece was modernized in 1501, and parts of its frame were sold in the nineteenth century. The elegant figure type and delicate modeling owe much to the example of Ghiberti, the author of the famous baptistery doors in Florence.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This tondo probably comes from the frame of the high altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico early in his career for the church of San Domenico, Fiesole. The triptych was modernized by Lorenzo di Credi in 1501 and sections of the older, dismantled frame were sold about 1827, including the predella showing Christ in Heaven surrounded by adoring angels and saints (National Gallery, London). Other fragments from the San Domenico altarpiece may include Saints Mark and Matthew (both Musée Condé, Chantilly), Saints Nicholas and Michael Archangel (Fondation Rau, Marseilles), two tondi of the Virgin Annunciate and Gabriel (formerly Tucker collection, Vienna), God the Father Blessing (Royal Collection, Hampton Court), A Bishop Saint (National Gallery, London), Two Angels (Galleria Sabauda, Turin), and a ciborium of Christ Blessing and Six Angels, called the Stroganoff altar (Hermitage, St. Petersburg). Not all of these are universally accepted as being by the hand of Fra Angelico.

    The bishop saint has been identified by Strehlke (1994) as John Chrysostom, and by Gardner von Teuffel (1997) as Alexander.


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed (at right): X [or B(?); other illegible marks]

  • Provenance

    ?church of San Domenico, Fiesole (until about 1827); ?Samuel Rogers, London (before d. 1855); Canon Sutton, London (sold to Douglas); [R. Langton Douglas, London, before 1928]; ?[Bottenwieser, Berlin; sold to Moses]; Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Moses, New York (probably by 1928, definitely by 1932–his d. 1961); Lucy G. (Mrs. Henry L.) Moses, New York (1961–d. 1990)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300–1450," November 17, 1994–February 26, 1995, no. 49 (as "A Bishop Saint (John Chrysostom?)").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fra Angelico," October 26, 2005–January 29, 2006, no. 10A (as "Saint Alexander").

  • References

    Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 104, as in the Rev. Arthur F. Sutton collection, Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, England; attributes it to Fra Angelico.

    Frida Schottmüller. Fra Angelico da Fiesole. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1924, p. 203, incorrectly illustrates the Bishop Saint in the National Gallery, London [see Notes] as being this work, then in the Langton Douglas collection.

    Robert Langton Douglas. Letter to W. G. Constable. December 18, 1928, identifies it as originally part of the frame of the altarpiece from the church of San Domenico, Fiesole [see Notes].

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 10, The Hague, 1928, p. 118, p. 37 of "Additions and Corrections", repeats Schottmüller's error [see Ref. 1924].

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 22, as "Episcopal Saint," by Fra Angelico, in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Moses.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 19.

    Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. 2nd ed., rev. London, 1961, p. 31, states that the picture "is perhaps the same as one seen by Sir K. Clark at Bottenwieser's in 1929".

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 14, lists it as a partially autograph work of Fra Angelico; calls it a roundel from the frame of an altarpiece and the companion to the London tondo.

    Umberto Baldini in L'opera completa dell'Angelico. Milan, 1970, p. 98, under no. 54.

    John Pope-Hennessy. Fra Angelico. 2nd ed. Ithaca, N.Y., 1974, pp. 227, 230, fig. 94, tentatively attributes the MMA and London panels to Fra Angelico and states that they are from the frame or predella of an altarpiece.

    Paul Julius Cardile. "Fra Angelico and His Workshop at San Domenico (1420–1435): The Development of His Style and the Formation of His Workshop." PhD diss., Yale University, 1976, pp. 83–84, 243, 248–49, no. 6vi, figs. 27 (reconstruction), 43, ascribes it to Zanobi Strozzi and considers it part of the frame of the San Domenico altarpiece.

    Umberto Baldini. "Contributi all'Angelico: il trittico di San Domenico di Fiesole e qualche altra aggiunta." Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Ugo Procacci. 1, Milan, 1977, pp. 236, 244 nn. 13–14, p. 245 n. 19, fig. 232 (reconstruction), reconstructs the San Domenico altarpiece with the MMA and London tondi in the upper corners of the framing pilasters, above panels of individual saints


    Diane Elyse Cole. "Fra Angelico: His Role in Quattrocento Painting and Problems of Chronology." PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1977, pp. 175–77, under no. 2, pp. 430–31, no. 66, fig. 66, believes it was designed by Fra Angelico and executed by an assistant; accepts with some modification Baldini's [see Ref. 1977] reconstruction of the San Domenico altarpiece.

    Elisabeth de Boissard in Chantilly, musée Condé: Peintures de l'Ecole italienne. Paris, 1988, p. 45, under no. 5.

    Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1990–1991." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49 (Fall 1991), pp. 38–39, ill. (color), notes the influence of Ghiberti's sculpture.

    Carl Brandon Strehlke in Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300–1450. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, pp. 339–42, no. 49, ill. (color), tentatively identifies the saint as John Chrysostom, an early Greek Father of the church and archbishop of Constantinople; doubts that the MMA and London tondi come from the San Domenico altarpiece, suggesting instead that they may be the two small works recorded in the sacristy of the same church in 1769; compares it to a panel of Saint Anthony of Padua (convent of San Francesco, Assisi), and says it could have been part of the same complex.

    Cathleen Hoeniger. The Renovation of Paintings in Tuscany, 1250–1500. Cambridge, 1995, fig. 85 (reconstruction), reproduces Baldini's [see Ref. 1977] reconstruction.

    John T. Spike. Angelico. Milan, 1996, pp. 193, 239–41, no. 89, ill., as possibly part of the San Domenico altarpiece; relates it to the panels in London and Assisi.

    Christa Gardner von Teuffel. "Fra Angelico's Bishop Saints from the High Altar of S. Domenico, Fiesole." Burlington Magazine 139 (July 1997), pp. 463–65, ill., ascribes it to "Fra Angelico and workshop" and dates it about 1428–30; considers it part of the San Domenico altarpiece and identifies the saint as Alexander, one of the patron saints of Fiesole.

    Giorgio Bonsanti. Beato Angelico. Florence, 1998, p. 121, no. 20, ill. p. 29 (color), calls the MMA, London, and Assisi panels autograph works of Fra Angelico; cites Gardner von Teuffel's [see Ref. 1997] identification of the saint and Strehlke's [see Ref. 1994] proposal for the provenance.

    Laurence Kanter in Fra Angelico. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2005, pp. 64–65, 68–69, 72 n. 6, no. 10A, ill. (color), tentatively proposes dating the altarpiece 1420–21; suggests that the MMA and London panels were originally contiguous and may have occupied the front (London) and the outside (MMA) of the left pilaster of the altarpiece.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History