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The Coronation of the Virgin

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Paintings
Italian painting

Author(s):
Cécile Maisonneuve, Dominique Thiébaut

Painted retable, perhaps commissioned by the Gaddi family, for one of the altars of the monastery of San Domenico in Fiesole (near Florence), where the artist later served as prior. The studied perspective and the physicality of the figures attest to the influence of Masaccio on the young Fra Angelico.

The Coronation of the Virgin

Based on apocryphal texts, the Coronation theme was widely disseminated in the 13th century through Jacobus De Voragine's Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend). The episode follows the Assumption and describes the celestial welcome of the Virgin by Christ, who lifts her above the multitude of the blessed. By way of nine marble steps of various colors, the Virgin climbs to Christ's throne, where a place to His right has been reserved for her. Kneeling with her head bowed, the Virgin receives the crown from the hands of her Son in glory. They are surrounded by the heavenly host, composed of angel musicians and saints, some of whose names appear engraved on their respective haloes; others are identifiable by their attributes. In the foreground, from left to right: St. Louis of France with his fleur-de-lys crown; Mary Magdalene, in red with her hair loose and holding a vase of perfume; St. Catherine of Alexandria with the wheel of her martyrdom; and St. Agnes, holding a lamb to her breast.

A Dominican commission

Several Dominicans, the patrons of this work, are recognizable by their white robes and black mantles. St. Dominic appears in profile; he holds a lily and above his head shines a red star. The martyred St. Peter is depicted with a bleeding wound on his head. The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas is also present, holding his writings and pointing to the scene.
On the predella are scenes referring to episodes in the life of the order's founder: The Dream of Innocent III, Saints Peter and Paul Appearing to St. Dominic, St. Dominic Restoring Napoleone Orsini, Christ in the Tomb, The Dispute of St. Dominic and the Miracle of the Book, St. Dominic and his Companions Fed by Angels, and The Death of St. Dominic.

Fra Angelico and his times

The composition is based on the pyramidal structure of the steps and the figures of the Virgin and Christ. The space has been determined according to the laws of linear perspective; these define the angle of the paving stones, which converge at a point above the vase of Mary Magdalene. The space is coherent, each figure placed in such a way that all can be seen. The sculptural volume of the bodies, whose monumentality is accentuated by the low point of view, is reminiscent of the works of Masaccio, which Fra Angelico had the opportunity to contemplate in Florence. Unlike Masaccio, however, Fra Angelico rejected idealized architecture in favor of an aedicula with Gothic forms. The delicate modeling of the faces was inspired by that of Gentile da Fabriano and the color scheme by the palette of Lorenzo Monaco.

Technical description

  • Guido di Pietro, known as FRA ANGELICO (documented in Florence in 1417 - Rome, 1455)

    The Coronation of the Virgin

    c. 1430-32

  • H. 2.09 m; W. 2.06 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1812

    On the predella, scenes from the life of Saint Dominic: The Dream of Innocent III; Saint Peter and Saint Paul Appearing to Saint Dominic; The Resurrection of Napoleon Orsini; The Entombment of Christ; The Dispute of Saint Dominic and the Miracle of the Book; Saint Dominic and His Companions Fed by Angels; The Death of Saint Dominic

    INV. 314

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Salon Carré
    Room 3

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Additional information about the work

The unusual shape of the upper part is original