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The Coronation of the Virgin
Lorenzo Monaco
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Christ and his mother, Mary, are seated on a throne. He places a crown on her head, and she crosses her hands on her chest in a gesture of acceptance. This is the coronation of the Virgin, a popular subject in medieval Italy where Mary was especially revered. According to medieval Christian legend, her soul was carried up to heaven after her death and she was crowned as Queen of Heaven.

This feast of gold and colour is a perfect example of early Renaissance painting. It was originally at the centre of a large polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) painted by Lorenzo Monaco for the monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence. Other panels from the same altarpiece survive in the National Gallery and in other collections.

Key facts
Artist Lorenzo Monaco
Artist dates active 1399; died 1423 or 1424
Full title The Coronation of the Virgin: Central Main Tier Panel
Group San Benedetto Altarpiece
Date made 1407-9
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 220.5 x 115.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1902
Inventory number NG1897
Location in Gallery Room 60
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San Benedetto Altarpiece

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A glorious, glowing, multi-coloured company of saints and angels surround Christ and his mother as he delicately places a golden crown on her head, making her Queen of Heaven. This huge polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) was painted for the high altar of the monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta Pinti in Florence. It was originally even bigger: its main panels are in the National Gallery, but other parts are scattered in collections across the world.

The Camaldolites (a religious order founded in 1012) were famous for their strict lifestyle, although they lived among great visual riches. The monastery’s register records how it was commissioned by a Florentine citizen, Luca Pieri Rinieri Berri, who was to pay almost the entire cost. In recompense his name was painted on the altarpiece – a few letters can be made out on the grey step of dais – so that he would be remembered in the monks' prayers.

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