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Watercolour - Watercolour, copy after The Ordination of St Stephen and St Stephen Distributing Alms, Fra Angelico in the Niccoline Chapel (Vatican, Rome)
  • Watercolour, copy after The Ordination of St Stephen and St Stephen Distributing Alms, Fra Angelico in the Niccoline Chapel (Vatican, Rome)
    Angelico, Fra
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Watercolour, copy after The Ordination of St Stephen and St Stephen Distributing Alms, Fra Angelico in the Niccoline Chapel (Vatican, Rome)

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (Niccoline Chapel (Vatican), copied)

  • Date:

    1877 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Angelico, Fra (artist)
    Edward Kaiser, born 1820 - died 1895 (copyist)
    Arundel Society
    St Stephen (commissioned and published)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour, gold, traces of pencil, on paper

  • Museum number:

    E.13-1995

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case DR, shelf 21

This watercolour is a copy after the frescoes in the Niccoline Chapel in the Vatican (Rome) by Fra Angelico (1395/1400 – 1455), painted by Eduard Kaiser (Graz 1820 – Vienna 1895) in c.1877. It was painted for the Arundel Society, founded in 1848 to promote knowledge of the art through the publication of reproductions of works of art. The Arundel Society popularised Renaissance art, particularly that of the Italian Old Masters, echoing a growing interest for ‘primitives’ (art of Western Europ prior to the Renaissance) in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Fra Angelico left Florence in 1445 for Rome, where he painted the walls of the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V from 1447 to 1451. The frescoes represent the lives of two early Christian martyrs: in the upper part the story of St Stephen, in the lower part scenes from St Lawrence’s life. The technique is more expressive than in the Convento di San Marco, the previous Fra Angelico’s cycle in a religious institution, painted in the 1440s.

Physical description

Arched on top watercolor representing two scenes. On the left, a man with a green robe (St Stephen) kneels in front of a man with a yellow dress (St Peter). Athor Saints watch the event. Everyone has a halo with the name written inside. Buildings with coloumns in background. On the right, St Stephen gives gifts to people.

Place of Origin

Rome (Niccoline Chapel (Vatican), copied)

Date

1877 (made)

Artist/maker

Angelico, Fra (artist)
Edward Kaiser, born 1820 - died 1895 (copyist)
Arundel Society
St Stephen (commissioned and published)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour, gold, traces of pencil, on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed in ink, lower right cop. Eduard Kaiser 1877

Dimensions

Width: 753 mm lunette, Height: 512 mm lunette

Object history note

Acquired in 1995 from the National Gallery of London.
Watercolour copy made for the Arundel Society and published as chromolithograph in 1883 by Storch and Kramer.

Historical context note

Original work
This watercolour belongs to a series of copies after the frescoes in the Niccoline Chapel in the Vatican (Rome) realised by Fra Angelico (1395/1400 – 1455). Fra Angelico left Florence in 1445 for Rome, where he painted the walls of the private chapel of Pope Nicholas V from 1447 to 1451.

The frescoes represent the lives of two early Christian martyrs: in the upper part the story of St Stephen, in the lower part scenes from St Lawrence’s life. The devotion of the Martyrs reflects the Pope’s desire to affirm the superiority of the Pontiff, in a period where the Roman Church was divided in schisms. The choice of the subject was probably made by the Pope himself, who is portrayed in the frescoes.

Fra Angelico was one of the most popular of all Primitive artists (art of Western Europ prior to the Renaissance). The interest for this painter started in the late 18th century, when Alois Hirt (1759-1836) a German art historian, discovered the frescoes in the Niccoline Chapel in the Vatican. The first publication of the Arundel Society was indeed the Life of Fra Angelico in 1849, an extract from the Lives of the most excellent painters, published entirely in 1850 with 20 lithograph including copies after Fra Angelico in Rome. Some of them are now in the V&A collection (see for example 23109 or 21100, from the second set of lithographs appeared from 1862 to 1869).

Arundel Society
The Arundel Society was founded in 1848 to promote knowledge of the art through the publication of reproductions of works of art. The Society was named after Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), important aristocratic patron and collector of the early Stuart period. The Society was intended to reach the largest possible audience through these reproductions. Subjects were chosen because of their instructive meaning rather than their popularity.

In addition to copies of famous paintings, the Society published an English translation of Giorgio Vasari’s (1511-1574; Florentine painter, draughtsman, architect, writer and collector) Lives of the most excellent painters, made in 1850 by Giovanni Aubrey Bezzi (1785-1789), one of the founding members of the Society.

The Arundel Society popularised Renaissance art, particularly that of the Italian Old Masters, echoing an growing interest for ‘primitives’ in the second half of the nineteenth century. The founding members of the Arundel Society were all acknowledge experts on Italian art. For instance, Sir Charles Eastlake (1793–1865; painter and art administrator), whose house was the meeting point of the Society, was Director of the National Gallery in London from 1855 until 1865 and during his tenure, he began one of the finest collections of Italian art in Britain.

Other preeminent members were John Ruskin (1819-1900, English writer, painter and collector), who supervised projects including the watercolours series of the Upper and Lower Church in Assisi, and Sir Austen H. Layard (1817-1894; English archaeologist, politician, diplomat, collector and writer). Layard lived and travelled in Italy for many years and his knowledge of the country’s art was extensive. It was thanks to Layard’s funding that the Society were able to publish copies of the watercolours made at their direction using chromolithography. Although photography was increasingly popular, as photographs could only be made in black and white, chromolithography was chosen as it was felt to be closer to the principals of the Arundel Society: they were coloured and had the aura of traditional prints. In this way, copies were more like the originals.

The Society reached the height of its popularity in the 1860s. However, by the end of the century, it faced mounting criticism with regards to the accuracy of its watercolour copies. The Society ceased its activities in 1897. In these years the availability of second hand prints had increased and the Society found it difficult to find market for its chromolithographs. Moreover, photographic reproductions had become more common than prints thanks to technical advances.

The last display of the Arundel Society’s watercolours took place at the National Gallery and when the Society was dissolved, some watercolours were given to that Institution, while other were acquired by the then South Kensington Museum (now V&A). The outstanding watercolours were transferred from the National Gallery to the V&A in the 1990s.

Copyist
This watercolour was painted by Edward Kaiser (1820 –1895), an Austrian artist. He studied in Vienna where he worked as an illustrator from 1850 to 1860. He arrived in Italy in 1867, spending his time in Rome and Florence. He came to the attention of the Arundel Society after his copies of ancient art, which were exhibited in Florence. He painted about 150 copies after old masters for the Arundel Society, in particular Giotto’s work in Padua and Assisi and frescoes in the Vatican. Kaiser lived in Italy for 20 years and travelled to England on numerous occasions to deal with the Arundel Society. He finally returned to Vienna in 1886, where he spent the rest of his life.

Kaiser’s technique was characterised by a precise attention to detail and accuracy in copying the authentic state of the original (see E.18-1995). However, in these watercolours from the Niccoline Chapel, he deliberately added the names of the central figures in their halos. These do not always appear in the originals by Fra Angelico, however he was known to have included names in a number of his other frescos.

The watercolour copy after the Ordination of St Lawrence (E.16-1995) originally only included the central fresco, however the watercolour was extended by Kaiser at a later date to encompass the entire Chapel, including the windows. This may have been to homogenise the dimensions of the entire group of watercolours, and add the inscription placed in the Chapel by Gregory XIII, who confirmed the attribution of the paintings to Fra Angelico.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, copy after The Ordination of St Stephen and St Stephen Distributing Alms, Fra Angelico in the Niccoline Chapel (Vatican, Rome), Edward Kaiser, Arundel Society watercolour, 1877

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Tanya Ledger, A Study of the Arundel Society 1848-1897. Unpublished thesis submitted for degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Oxford, 1978, p. 273
Antonella Greco, La Cappella di Niccolò V del Beato Angelico, Roma : Istituto poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Libreria dello Stato, 1980
John Pope-Hennessy, Fra Angelico, Firenze: Scala; New York, N.Y.: Riverside, 1989
Christoph Stiegemann, <u>Caritas : Nächstenliebe von den frühen Christen bis zur Gegenwart : Katalog zur Ausstellung im Erzbischöflichen Diösesanmuseum Paderborn</u>, Petersberg : Michael Imhof Verlag, [2015]. 719 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm. ISBN: 9783731901426 / 3731901420
pp. 511-4

Materials

Watercolour on paper; Gold; Pencil; Material

Techniques

Watercolour drawing

Categories

Architecture; Christianity; Copies and Facsimilies; Ecclesiastical Art/Craft; Places of Worship; Religion

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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