(b. ca. 1325, Firenze, d. ca. 1399, Firenze)

San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece: Coronation of the Virgin

Egg tempera on wood, 209 x 114 cm
National Gallery, London

Jacopo di Cione and his workshop painted the high altar of the Benedictine nunnery of San Pier Maggiore, Florence in 1370-71. The church of the convent was one of the oldest in Florence. During 1783 renovations caused part of the building to collapse, and it was mostly destroyed in 1784, although the façade remained. The altarpiece in the National Gallery, London is complete except for its frame (lost) and predella (dispersed in other collection).

The picture shows the central panel in the main tier of the 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.