BARTOLO DI FREDI
(b. ca. 1330, Siena, d. ca. 1410, Siena)
The Coronation of the Virgin1388
Tempera on panel, 332 x 279 cm
Museo Civico e Diocesano d'Arte Sacra, Montalcino
The polyptych of the Coronation of the Virgin, signed and dated 1388 by Bartolo di Fredi, was executed for a chapel in the church of San Francesco in the town of Montalcino to the south of Siena. The painter appears to have had a number of other connections with Montalcino, both as an agent for the Sienese government (in 1375 and 1376) and as a painter - securing at least four major commissions in the 1380s and 1390s.
This altarpiece, which approaches the scale and complexity of the front face of Duccio's Maesta and of Pietro Lorenzetti's Carmelite altarpiece, offers a compelling example of the ambition of Sienese altarpiece design in the 1380s. The central panel displays an elegant representation of the Virgin at the moment of her coronation as queen of heaven. Above this arresting image is a smaller painting of the Virgin of the Assumption, a subject with strong political overtones for the Sienese and their subjects. The remaining panels are devoted to scenes from the early life of the Virgin and the events surrounding her death and assumption. The narrative follows a sequence that begins on the left-hand side of the predella, progresses from left to right across the predella and then proceeds from the lower left to lower right of the side panels, ending with the upper left and upper right side panels.