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The Coronation of the Virgin: Central Main Tier Panel
Jacopo di Cione and workshop
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This is the central panel of a large altarpiece made for the church of San Pier Maggiore, Florence. Christ crowns the Virgin, after her body and soul have been taken up to heaven. This was an important moment: it established the Virgin’s role as an intercessor to whom believers could address their prayers. It is not recorded in the Bible but is described in the Golden Legend, a medieval compilation of saints' biographies.

The event’s glory and majesty are reflected here in the rich decoration of Christ and the Virgin’s white robes, with golden embroidery showing birds, hearts and flowers. Angels, dressed in colourful robes, play beautifully detailed musical instruments, encouraging viewers to imagine heavenly music accompanying the scene.

The Virgin’s coronation was a popular scene in Florence where artists based their composition upon Giotto’s altarpiece made for the Baroncelli chapel at Santa Croce around 1334.

Key facts
Artist Jacopo di Cione and workshop
Artist dates documented 1365; died 1398 -1400
Full title The Coronation of the Virgin: Central Main Tier Panel
Group The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece
Date made 1370-1
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 206.5 x 113.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG569.1
Location in Gallery Room 60
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The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece

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These images come from a large, four-tiered altarpiece created for the high altar of the choir of the church of San Pier Maggiore in Florence. It was made up of a number of separate panels, most of which are now in the National Gallery’s collection.

Although only the facade of the church remains today, it was one of the oldest and most important religious institutions in Florence when this altarpiece was made. It was founded by the first bishop of Florence, Saint Zenobius, in the fifth century. The picture formed the backdrop to one of the ceremonies relating to the ordination of each bishop of Florence until the late sixteenth century.

The altarpiece was most probably commissioned by the wealthy Florentine Albizzi family and many of its saints relate to their family or their trade as wool merchants. The central images showed the coronation of the Virgin by Christ surrounded by adoring saints – a highly popular image in Florence.