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"Madonna and Child with Angels", Oil by Fra Angelico (1400-1455, Italy)
Fra Angelico's earliest paintings are generally dated in the early 1420s. However, it seems likely that several were executed before the 1420s, for they interpret themes associated with Lorenzo Monaco in a style and sensibility closely related to that of the master. They may be attributed to Angelico because of their analogies to paintings from the 1420s known to be by him. A crucial painting for understanding this early period is the Madonna of Humility in St. Petersburg. The theme of the Madonna of Humility originated in the mid-fourteenth century and surged in popularity through the first few decades of the fifteenth century. It was portrayed time and again by Lorenzo Monaco and his workshop. It shows the Virgin, humbly seated on the ground instead of majestically enthroned, tenderly holding the infant Jesus on her lap. The attribution of this Madonna to Angelico is substantiated by a comparison with the central panel of the San Domenico di Fiesole Altarpiece.