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The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise

© 2006 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Italian painting

Aline François

This painting is Tintoretto's first sketch for the competition held in 1582 and 1588 for the main decoration of the Grand Council chamber in the Doge's Palace in Venice. The artist's representation of Paradise shows Christ crowning the Virgin atop a semicircular arrangement of cloud layers, on which the twelve apostles, angels, patriarchs, prophets, the four Evangelists, St John the Baptist, Adam and Eve, Church fathers, Christian heroes, popes, and bishops are seated in hierarchical order.

A coronation within a concert

According to the Golden Legend, after her death Mary reunites with Christ for her coronation. The Church fathers, the saints, the martyrs, popes, bishops, and the elect all gather to witness the event. They are placed hierarchically on successive cloud layers in half-circle form. At the summit the Virgin, surrounded by the twelve apostles and seated to Christ's right, receives the crown from her son's hands. The dove of the Holy Spirit, at the central point of the construction, hardly visible in a golden halo, hovers over the scene. This arrangement echoes that of Dante's "celestial rose" (Divine Comedy, canto XXX) which describes Paradise. In the painting's center, a host of angels glorifies the scene by singing and playing string and wind instruments.

A swirling sight

Tintoretto made this sketch around 1564. He attained full artistic maturity during the same period. His bold style is evident in this preliminary work through his penchant for subtly-illuminated, vertiginous compositions that lead to a fresh artistic conception, despite the crowd of ecstatic figures arranged in a perfect illusionistic cosmic setting. The volume and movement of the clouds, placed alternately in or against the light, add to the spectacular effect. In this grandiose scene, Tintoretto attempts to include the viewer, to excite his emotions before this seemingly infinite space.

The final version

This sketch is a study for a final work which would replace the ruined fresco Paradise by Guariento—a Paduan artist of the 14th century—which adorned the tribune of the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge's Palace in Venice. Tintoretto waited nearly twenty-five years before receiving the commission for the final painting, in 1588. On December 20, 1577, several of the Palace works, including Guariento's fresco, were destroyed in a raging fire. The political significance of the site led the Senate to quickly organize a competition. Veronese and Francesco Bassano together won approval for creating the new fresco, but they would never undertake it. After Veronese's death in 1588, the commission fell to Tintoretto who painted, with his son's collaboration, the immense canvas which still hangs there. As for the sketch, slightly different from the finished composition, it was conserved in the Bevilacqua Palace in Verona until its removal by French commissaries in 1798.

Technical description

  • Jacopo ROBUSTI, known as TINTORETTO (Venice, c. 1518 - Venice, 1594)

    The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise

    c. 1580

  • H. 1.43 m; W. 3.62 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1798 (from the Bevilacqua collection in Verona) , 1798

    INV. 570

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Mona Lisa room
    Room 711

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