Brief Identification Edit
Technical Evalution Edit
The Coronation of the Virgin entered the Louvre in Paris in 1812, during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.The painting was transferred back by Napoleon I so it can be assumed he took it as a prize of war. The Coronation of the Virgin also includes a predalla, a painting seperate from the upper tempera that lines the bottom of the frame. The predella had been separated from the upper panel, but it was purchased in Florence in 1830 and reunited with the rest of the painting in the Louvre [Pope-Hennessy 1981, 173].
Local Historical Context Edit
In the last years of the fourteenth century, a reform known as the Dominican Observance took place, which implicated a stricter, more literal interpretation of Dominican provisions [Pope-Hennessy 1981, 2]. Around 1407, at the age of 20, Fra Angelico entered the Dominican convent of the Observance at Fiesole, whose convents practiced the strictest rule [Argan 1955, 7-8]. These years were times of schism and disagreement in the Church. In 1409, there was a shift of allegiance from Gregory XII to Antipope Alexander V, however Dominican monks remained loyal to Pope Gregory XII [Argan 1955, 8]. Because of this, the Dominican monks were expelled from Fiesole. During this time far from Florence, Fra Angelico created his own resources and inspiration for art. In 1418, Martin V was elected new pope in the Council of Constance, ending the Great Schism and allowing Fra Angelico and the other Dominican monks to return to Fiesole.
During the Renaissance, Christian art was extremely popular in Italy. Fra Angelico specifically directed his spiritual artwork towards his Dominican brothers. Fra Angelico was a greatly respected, high-ranking member of the Dominican Order [Scudieri 2004, 10]. In the 1400s in Florence, prosperous families gave visual expression of their wealth through chapels, altarpieces, and palaces [Onians 2004, 122]. It is thought that the Gaddi Family commissioned Fra Angelico to paint The Coronation of the Virgin as a gift for the church of San Domenico in Fiesole [Maissonneuve].
Although Fra Angelico was a renowned artist in his own lifetime, The Coronation of the Virgin was not his best masterpiece: “On the whole, [it was] the most involved, ungainly and coldly rhetorical composition he ever painted” [Argan 1955, 64].
World-Historical Significance Edit
Early Egyptians used this technique of tempera painting in decorations, as well as throughout the Byzantine period. Tempera was introduced in northern Italy in 1250 by a Florentine painter, Cimabue, who was strongly influenced by Greek and Byzantine styles [Cennini 1932, xv-xviii].
There are debates about whether or not Fra Angelico can be credited for completing the entire painting. Some experts have claimed that some techniques in the painting are more advanced compared to paintings Angelico completed at a significantly later time [Pope-Hennessy 1981, 10]. They believe Fra Angelico must have left the painting and a younger artist finished it. However, others argue that the entire work was completely painted by Fra Angelico, and his perspectives are just methodical tricks [Argan 1955, 64]. The geometric perspective of space incorporated in The Coronation of the Virgin is based on an elaboration of vanishing-point construction invented by Italian artist, Brunelleschi, in 1413 [Hood]. The actual artist(s) of this painting remains a mystery today.
What we do know is that The Coronation of the Virgin portrays a celestial hierarchy. The steps and placement of holy people represents the importance of hierarchical order, on earth and in heaven. This painting, along with many other of Fra Angelico, portrays the importance of religion in art during the Renaissance.
Argan, Giulio Carlo. Fra Angelico: Biographical and Critical Study. Geneva: Skira, 1955.
Pope-Hennessy, John Wyndham. Angelico. New York: Scala Books, 1981.
Muratov, P. P. and Erik Law-Gisiko. Fra Angelico. London, New York: F. Warne & Co., ltd, 1930.
Onians, John. Atlas of World Art. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Scudieri, Magnolia, Joan M. Reifsnyder, and Museo di San Marco. The Frescoes By Angelico At San Marco. Florence: Giunti, 2004.
Cennini, Cennino, Daniel Varney Thompson, Jr., Yale University and Louis Stern Memorial Fund. Il Libro Dell'arte. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932.
Roettgen, Steffi. Italian Frescoes. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996.
Maisonneuve, Cécile and Dominique Thiébaut, “The Coronation of the Virgin,” http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/coronation-virgin
Merriam-Webster, “Cimabue,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cimabue
Finnan, Vincent, “The Egg Tempera Painting Technique,” http://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/egg-tempera.html
Hood, William, "Angelico, Fra," http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T002846?q=the+coronation+of+the+virgin%2C+fra+angelico&article_section=all&search=article&pos=7&_start=1#firsthit