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Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven
Probably by Fra Angelico
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Christ, hovering on wispy clouds, is surrounded by angels who sing, dance and play musical instruments. He is shown triumphant over death: his red and white flag was associated with his resurrection; the wound in his right hand, caused when he was crucified, is a reminder of his physical suffering. The artist has incised the gold leaf around him with radiating lines to show that he gives out a golden light.

This is the central panel of the predella (lowest part) of an altarpiece made by Fra Angelico, a painter and friar, for his own convent church of San Domenico in Fiesole, a town just outside Florence. The main part of the altarpiece is still in Fiesole but the predella is now in the National Gallery. It is unusual: it shows Christ in glory surrounded by saints and angels, rather than narrative scenes of the lives of the saints.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Fra Angelico
Artist dates active 1417; died 1455
Full title Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven: Central Predella Panel
Group Fiesole San Domenico Altarpiece
Date made about 1423-4
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 31.7 x 73 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG663.1
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Fiesole San Domenico Altarpiece

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These panels come from the predella (lowest part) of the altarpiece made for the high altar of San Domenico, Fiesole. Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar (a member of the religious order founded by Saint Dominic) as well as a painter. The church was attached to his own convent – so although he made two other altarpieces for it, he was not paid for his work.

Predellas usually showed narrative scenes of the lives of the saints who were depicted in the main part of the altarpiece. This one is unusual: it shows Christ in glory in heaven, surrounded in the central scene by angels. This is framed by two panels showing rows of saints and Old Testament figures. These in turn are enclosed on either side by Dominican ‘Blessed’ figures who were holy and revered but not saints.

The mass of saints includes Dominicans and reflects their interest in the saints of their order and the place of the Dominicans in the broader church.

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