The Works of Fra Angelico – The Coronation of the Virgin

The Coronation of the Virgin, by Fra AngelicoDuring the French invasion of 1812, this famous picture, then in the conventual Church of San Domenico at Fiesole, was taken to Paris, where it is now one of the glories of the Louvre. The miniature-like qualities of the painting, the absence of shadows, and the lavish use of gold, as well as the Gothic features of the design, mark it as one of Fra Angelico’s earlier achievements. It was probably executed about 1425.

“Time,” writes Theophile Gautier, “has not tarnished the ideal freshness of this painting, delicate as a miniature in some old missal, the tints of which share the whiteness of the lily, the roseate hues of morning, the blue of the sky, and the gold of the stars. Christ is seated upon a throne with marble steps, the varied colors of which are symbolic. He holds a crown of rich workmanship above the head of the Virgin, who kneels before him. Around them throng a choir of angels playing upon musical instruments. Light flames flutter about their heads, and their wings palpitate with joy at this glorious coronation, which is to transform the humble handmaid of the Lord into the Lady of Paradise.

“From both sides of the throne the hosts of the blessed contemplate the scene – apostles, bishops, and founders of monastic orders, all distinguished by their emblems. A charming group of saints of celestial grace is in the foreground: the kneeling Magdalene with her vase of ointment; Saint Cecilia crowned with roses; Saint Clara with her starry veil; Saint Catherine of Alexandria leaning upon the wheel, the instrument of her martyrdom; and Saint Agnes with a white lamb in her arms, symbol of innocence and purity. These youthful saints are endowed with heavenly beauty; they are visible souls rather than bodies – thoughts in human forms, enveloped in chaste draperies of white, rose-color, and blue, embroidered with stars – clad as happy spirits might be, who rejoice in the eternal light of Paradise.”

– from the book series “Masters in Art”