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Florentine Convent as Practiced Place: Cosimo de’Medici, Fra Angelico, and the Public Library of San Marco

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Abstract By approaching the Observant Dominican convent of San Marco in Florence as a “practiced place,” this article considers the secular users of the convent’s library as mobile spectators that necessarily navigated the cloister and dormitory and, in so doing, recovers, for the first time, their embodied experience of the architectural pathway and the frescoed decoration along the way. To begin this process, the article rediscovers the original “public” for the library at San Marco and reconstructs the pathway through the convent that this secular audience once used. By considering the practice of the place, this article considers Fra Angelico’s extensive fresco decoration along this path as part of an integrated “humanist itinerary.” In this way, Angelico’s frescoes may be understood not only as the result of the social relationship between the mendicant artist and his merchant patron, but also, for the first time in art historical scholarship, as a direct means of visual communication with the convent’s previously unrecognized public audience and an indicator of their political and intellectual practices within the Florentine convent.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Art History, 1000 Fine Art Center, Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH 43403 USA


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