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Calling All Angels

Even though I’m a big fan of technology, I have to say that I love getting real mail, especially with handwritten envelopes! Funny how these things have become more precious and special to me. And I love getting cards, and will not give up the tradition of sending out real paper holiday cards. So, Priority #1 on my holiday prep list is: Paint some images for holiday cards.

Last year, I painted an angel from Melozzo Da Forli’s gorgeous ceiling fresco in Loreto’s Basilica della Santa Casa for my primary card. This year, I’ve gone with angels again and selected another to paint from that same fresco, “Angel With Lamb”. These angels really speak to me – in part because of their serene and open expressions. 

“Da Forli Angel with Lamb” (5.5″ x 6″ ink and watercolour)

I became curious about this fresco and Da Forli, so I did a little research. Da Forli isn’t one of the most well-known Renaissance painters, but I did discover a few interesting facts. He’s credited with inventing the form of perspective used for these angels called “di sotto in su” or “seen from below” – this sense that the figures above are descending on you or are hovering. One source said that he would hang full-sized wax figures from the ceiling in order to draw the figures correctly foreshortened, and then would transfer the drawing onto the ceiling space intended for the painted figure. The ceiling fresco is perfectly divided into sections with 8 unique angels holding symbols of the Passion – he went through this process 8 times?! It’s estimated it took him 2+ years to paint this ceiling. Much respect, Signore Da Forli! 

The Ceiling in Sacristy of St. Mark, Loreto by Melozzo da Forli (from a 2011 travel photo)

The Ceiling in Sacristy of St. Mark, Loreto by Melozzo da Forli (from a 2011 travel photo)

My process was much simpler – only 4 days! For the process-curious out there, I started with an ink drawing, watercolour-painted the backgrounds, applied some washes on the angel, and then painted in the detail from the top down, while leaving the lamb to the end. 

da-forli-angel-2-processI’ve enjoyed painting these Da Forli angels so much that I’ve decided to paint 2 more (one each at holiday time next year and in 2018) and create a small series of 4 angel paintings. By then, I may want to move on to reindeer!

And for those who stuck with the post to the end, some exciting news below about these angels and you!

Thanks for stopping in! Ciao!


I’m offering a limited number of my printed 5″ x 7″ watercolour cards of these angels on my Etsy Shop for the holidays! Many people told me they framed last year’s card so it can do double-duty as an art print, too.

(Click on each photo to go to their shop page for info)


10 replies »

    • Thanks so much, Snehal! I get drawn to the details, especially ones where I marvel at how it was done, or how someone thought to include them… The more difficult, obviously the more amazed I become. Doesn’t mean that I can draw or paint it though – I’ve learned that lesson more than a few times. But it doesn’t mean I won’t try. Ha ha!

  1. You have reminded me — it’s time to make Christmas cards! One year I did a watercolor and had it printed into cards. This year I plan to return to relief prints. Your angel card is truly beautiful. Your friends/family who receive one will be grateful for this piece of beauty.

    • Hi, Julia: Welcome! I love card-making time. One year I made custom cards for close family members, painting scenes from their lives from photos I pulled off their Facebook pages. Crazy! Started doing that months ahead because I paint so slowly. Then in subsequent years, I’ve simplified. And this year, everyone will get the same card! Ha ha! Have fun with your card-making and thanks for your kind comments about the angel!

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