Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth

Paul Holberton. Feb. 2018. 248p. ed. by . illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781911300397. $60. FINE ARTS
Small, painted, Renaissance tabernacle reliquaries are showcased in this exhibition catalog from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, edited by associate curator Silver (Piero della Francesca in America). The headlining four pieces by the pioneering friar-artist Fra Angelico (1395–1455)—three from Florence's Museao di San Marco, one from Gardner—are reunited after more than 200 years. The other few works on display round out what looks like a dazzling presentation. A highlight of the volume is an essay on technology's role, as well as copious notes providing a rare glimpse into the museum's contribution to conservation and restoration. The bulk of the book shares exposition on the featured artifacts as sacred Catholic iconographic aids of veneration and secular museum acquisitions as objects of beauty, closing on a ponderous note to spur further research. Academics will welcome historical perspectives on liturgical objects while attendees will recall the radiant reproductions of bright gold divine accents of saintly narratives.
VERDICT Heavy scholarship and narrow focus may limit both appeal and audience to those devoted to museum studies or wishing to discover the artist's process through the latest scientific technique as showcased in this handsome catalog.
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