Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Kristen Van Ausdall

Abstract

Between 1436 and 1455, Fra Angelico and his workshop created an extensive collection of dormitory frescoes that include visual representations of St. Dominic, depicted consistently in one of nine modes of prayer and presented in the De modo orandi, a guideline written specifically for Dominicans. The dormitory cell frescoes for the novices, clerics and lay brothers all convey complicated Dominican meaning but are presented in different iconographic and narrative modes. This study will explore the inclusion of Dominican symbols and narratives within the dormitory cell frescoes at San Marco, paying closest attention to the prior and novices’ cells and demonstrating their correspondence to the level of Dominican indoctrination of the brother who lived within the cell. The clerics’ cells in the east corridor all present St. Dominic, the Virgin, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Peter Martyr, either together or as individuals, meditating upon an image that they create in their minds. Within the novitiate cell frescoes, an uncomplicated rendering of St. Dominic is depicted at a particular age and thus at a particular life junction, while performing the mode of prayer from the De modo orandi. The north corridor was not merely a dormitory and sleeping space for the lay brothers and visitors; some of the cells were used as offices, classrooms and storage spaces. The lay brothers’ bedroom cells are more narrative in character, when compared to the frescoes within the novitiate and clerics’ dormitory. Although the bedroom cell frescoes of the lay brothers are less complex in terms of iconography, they also include Dominican saints practicing the manners of prayer. Every dormitory cell fresco at San Marco represented complex Dominican meanings; however, they were presented in distinct iconographic and narrative modes according to the cleric, novice and lay brother who inhabited the cell. The frescoes corresponded to the level of Dominican indoctrination of the brother who resided in each cell.

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