Noli me tangere | Fra Angelico | 1430
Fra Angelico was born as Guido di Pietro in 1395 and, being 23, he enrolls in the Dominican order. Registries say that Fra Angelico was already a painter the moment he became a monk. According the custom, he changes his name to Giovanni and the people began to call him “the angelic one”. The name for what he will be known in the art world, from the book “The lives of the artists” from Vasari on 1965, comes from the Latin word “Fra”, brother; and his nickname, “the angelic one”.
Our artist became famous for his paintings in altars, canvas and his frescoes. He was even invited to paint the chapel for pope Nicholas. However, he was not only known for his art, but also for living in the ascetism typical of a Dominican friar, to take care of the poor.
Noli me tangere means “do not touch me”. According to the bible, those were the words that Christ said to Mary Magdalene once he had resurrected. And the passage continues “… because I have not yet ascended to the Father”. I really don’t have the slightest clue of what this means. I can only say that the “do not touch me” scene was painted several times by different artists such as Fra Angelico, Poussin, Rembrandt and several more.
Today’s work is not a painting on a canvas, but a frescoe, that is, a painting on a wall. Many times, our artist was asked to paint the rooms for the friars for both decoration and inspiration. Today’s work is one of these frescoes and there, we see Christ coming out from the sepulcher after he was left for dead. We can see that he is walking because of the position of his feet and, to the left, Mary Magdalene is trying to touch him to be sure that the son of God had resurrected.
The composition of the painting is divided in two halves, set by the central tree. In the halves, we see the dualism between two worlds: the spiritual one and the earthly one. Christ wears white clothing, symbolizing purity, and seems to float above the ground; while Magdalene, by her position, is found closer to earth.
Despite the several historic errors in the painting (that I guess don’t mind Fra Angelico), I like it. I think textures are the most interesting thing in the picture. The cavern is soft and almost seems like marble. The fabrics of the dresses fall gently over the bodies, making them harmonic. And also, other textures are worth seeing: the vegetation on the ground, the fence at the back and the leafy trees.
A curious fact is that Fra Angelico didn’t retouch his paintings. Once they were done, he left them like that, because he believed that, as they were divinely inspired, they shouldn’t be modified.