2010 44¢ Angel with Lute
Issue Date: October 21, 2010
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
A heavenly angel lightly strums her guitar while glancing at humans on the earth below her. This image is one of 14 figures that once surrounded Jesus Christ’s rise into heaven in Melozzo da Forli’s 1480 fresco, The Ascension of Christ. In 1711, the fresco was destroyed during a church remodel, but several of the individual pieces remain intact and are on display today.
Born into the wealthy Ambrosi family, Melozzo da Forli (1438-94) was one of the most significant members of the Forli Painting School. Influenced by artists such as Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, and Ansuino da Forli, Molozzo began his work as a color-grinder to painting masters. By the 1460s, he was painting frescoes (on wet plaster or walls) in Rome and Urbino. In 1478, he was among the founding members of the Academy of St. Luke, uniting some of the best painters in Rome.
Around 1479, Giuliano della Rovere (later Pope Julius II) and Pope Sixtus IV hired Melozzo to paint the ceiling of the Basilica dei Santi Apostoli or The Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles. His fresco, The Ascension of Christ, pictures Jesus surrounded by the apostles and musical angels. It was one of the earliest ceiling paintings to utilize foreshortening, or di sotto in su, meaning “from below looking up.” Melozzo is regarded as one of the best painters of this style from his era.