Fra Angelico - The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, 1424-1434

Fra Angelico (Vicchio, about 1400 - 1455, Rome)

The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, 1424-1434

Tempera with oil glazes and gold on panel, 61.8 x 38.3 cm (24 5/16 x 15 1/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number



Possibly commissioned for the church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence by its sacristan Fra Giovanni di Zanobi Masi as one of four reliquaries around 1430. Remained at the church until at least 1754.
Collection of Rev. John Sanford (d.1855), Nynehead, Somerset by 1816. Exhibited at the British Institution, London in the same year.
Bequeathed by Rev. John Sanford to Frederick Henry Paul Methuen (d.1891), 2nd Baron Methuen, Corsham Court in 1855.
By descent to Paul Sanford Methuen (d.1932), 3rd Baron Methuen, Corsham Court around 1891.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the art dealers Colnaghi & Co., London on 23 February 1899 for £4,000 through Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), American art historian.

Dimension Notes

Picture surface: 55.88 x 35.24 cm (22 x 13 7/8 in.) Frame: 85.7 x 45.1 x 8.5 cm (33 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 3 3/8 in.)


Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 9. Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 10-13. Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 98.Stuart Preston. "The Death and Assumption of the Virgin" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 27.Morris Carter. "Mrs. Gardner & The Treasures of Fenway Court" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 59.John Pope-Hennessy. Fra Angelico (London, 1952), pp. 12, 197, 199-200, fig. xl. Benedict Nicolson. "The Sanford Collection." The Burlington Magazine 97 (July 1955), pp. 207-214. (as Zanobi Strozzi)George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 94-95.Elsa Borante and Umberto Baldini. L'opera completa dell'Angelico (Milan, 1970), p. 93, no. 32. (as about 1434)John Pope-Hennesy. Fra Angelico, 2nd edition. (London, 1974), pp. 222, 224-25. (as Zanobi Strozzi)Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 2-5. David Alan Brown. "Berenson and Mrs. Gardner: The Connoisseur, the Collector and the Photograph." Fenway Court. (1978), pp. 24-29, no. 2. Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 26-27.Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 164-65, 167-69, 203, 206, 230, 370, 515. Liana Castelfranchi Vegas. L'Angelico e l'Umanesimo (Milan, 1989), p. 43, no. 27. (as 1424)Carl Brandon Strehlke in Laurence B. Kanter. Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300-1450. Exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994), pp. 342-45, no. 50. (as about 1433)John T. Spike. Fra Angelico (New York, 1996), pp. 233-34, no. 75D.Laurence Kanter. "Fra Angelico, Death and Assumption of the Virgin" in Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000). (as 1430-1431)Giorgio Bonsanti. Beato Angelico: Catalogo completo (Florence, 1998), pp. 125-26. (as probably 1430)Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 44-45.Carl Brandon Strehlke. "The Princeton 'Penitent Saint Jerome,' the Gaddi Family, and Early Fra Angelico." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University, vol. 62 (2003), p. 19.Laurence Kanter and Pia Palladino. Fra Angelico. Exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), pp. 139, 141, 147-51, 237, no. 28 (as 1433-34)Magnolia Scudieri and Sara Giacomelli. Fra Giovanni Angelico: Pittore Miniatore o Miniatore Pittore? (Florence, 2007), pp. 51-52, fig. 49. (as about 1430)Cynthia Saltzman. Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), p. 81.Alan Chong. "Isabella Gardner, Bernard Berenson, and Otto Gutekunst" in Jeremy Howard (ed.). Colnaghi: The History (London, 2010), p. 30, fig. 7.Jeremy Howard. "Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and Mrs. Gardner's first Botticelli" in Colnaghi. Colnaghi Past, Present, and Future: An Anthology (London, 2016), pp. 21, 54-55, fig. 4.Nathaniel Silver (ed.). Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2018), pp. 11-21. 24-31, 33-38, 42, 44, 45-47, 51, 53, 55, 82-84, 123, 134-47, 163-73, 193, 223, cat. 3, figs. 8-10, 12-14, 54, 81-93, 103, 105-107, 109.Jeremy Howard. "Selling Botticelli to America: Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and the Sale of the Madonna of the Eucharist to Isabella Stewart Gardner." Colnaghi Studies 4 (March 2019), p. 137.David Young Kim. "Points on a Field: Gentile da Fabriano and Gold Ground." Journal of Early Modern History 23 (2019), p. 199.Beth Williamson. Reliquary Tabernacles in Fourtheen-Century Italy: Image, Relic and Material Culture (Woodbridge, UK, 2020), pp. 4. 

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Fra Angelico’s technical and compositional innovations paved the way for a more modern manner of painting in Florence, and he found favor with important patrons, including two popes. This panel is the third in a set of four reliquaries, or containers for holy relics, depicting episodes from the Virgin’s life.

Nineteenth-century enthusiasts celebrated this Dominican painter “Fra Angelico” (the angelic friar) for the spiritual content and lyrical quality of his work. Most of his paintings in the United States are the surviving fragments of larger works, but this one is nearly intact and was greatly admired in Boston. Gardner’s friend the American painter John La Farge, whose works can be found in the Blue Room, once reminded her that even Robert Langton Douglas, a British art critic and director of the National Gallery of Ireland, praised Gardner’s Fra Angelico in his writings.


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An Angel Catching the Blood of the Redeemer

Giovanni di Francia

The Virgin and Child Enthroned