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Panel - The Coronation of the Virgin

The Coronation of the Virgin

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

  • Museum number:

    A.6-1921

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This panel carved in painted and gilt alabaster was made in the 15th century England. The elaborate iconography of this panel shows Christ placing the crown on the Virgin's head and God the Father at the right, blessing. The Holy Ghost descends from heaven in the form of a dove.

The carving of alabaster, mostly quarried in Tutbury and Chellaston near Nottingham, took on industrial proportions in England between the middle of the 14th and the early 16th centuries. The market for altarpieces and smaller devotional images was a large one. It included not only religious foundations but also the merchant classes. Many hundreds of English alabasters were exported, some as far afield as Iceland and Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
Alabaster - a form of gypsum - is a comparatively soft material and is therefore easy to carve. It can also be polished. Its natural colour was especially useful for the representation of faces and flesh, which would normally remain unpainted. The finished alabaster panels in altarpieces of this type were fixed into position in the wooden frame by means of lead wires. They were embedded in the backs of the panels, fed through holes in the frame and secured.

Physical description

The crowned Virgin, wearing a gown and a cloak over her shoulders, kneels in an unnatural twisted position facing the spectator on a tasselled cushion placed on a mound in the centre of the panel. Above her to the left, enthroned on a ledge, and turned towards her, is God the Son, bearded and wearing the torse and a cloak draped over his shoulders and knees, leaving the upper part of his body bare. He touches the Virgin's crown with his left hand; his right hand is raised in blessing. The crowned and bearded figure of God the Father, wearing a girded gown and a cloak, is seated in a similar position on the right of the panel, his right hand raised in blessing. Both figures are shown with bare feet. Above the Virgin, the Dove, representing the Holy Spirit, descends from a wavy cloud-like projection, indicating heaven.

The Virgin's hands are missing but remaining traces suggest they were raised apart in an attitude of prayer. The left hand of God the Father is missing. The top left corner of the panel is missing and the top right is chipped.

Slight traces of green paint and the usual daisy pattern remain on the ground beneath the three figures. The upper background is gilded, with the remains of gesso knobs. There are traces of blue on the Virgin's halo. The crowns and hair of the figures bear traces of gilding. There is a decoration of dark brown spots beneath the figures of God the Son and God the Father.

The back of the panel bears three lead-plugged holes, one with a latten wire attached. The bottom has been cut away.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved, painted and gilt alabaster

Dimensions

Height: 40.1 cm, Width: 25 cm

Object history note

Purchased from the Architectural Association in 1921.

Descriptive line

Alabaster panel depicting the Coronation of the Virgin. English, 15th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cheetham, Francis. English Medieval Alabasters. Oxford: Phaidon-Christie's Limited, 1984. p. 212 (cat. 139), ill. ISBN 0-7148-8014-0
Prior, E.S. Two alabaster tables from the Architectural Museum. Archaeological Journal. LXVII, 1910, p. 88, pl. 1.
Society of Antiquaries. Illustrated catalogue of the Exhibition of English Medieval Alabaster Work, Held in the Rooms of the Society of Antiquaries, 26th May-30th June, 1910. London, 1913, no. 13.
Eden, F.C. The A.A. Collection II, Alabaster Work. Architectural Association Journal. March 1916, p. 163, ill. p. 164.
York Festival Exhibition. English Medieval Alabaster Carvings (exhibition catalogue). York, 1954, no. 56.

Materials

Alabaster; Paint; Gilt

Techniques

Carving; Painting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Gown; Torse; Cloak; Dove; Crown; Cushion

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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