CHARONTON, Enguerrand
(b. ca. 1410, Laon, d. ca. 1466, Avignon)

The Coronation of the Virgin

Oil on panel, 183 x 220 cm
Musée de l'Hospice, Villeneuve-les-Avignon

From the surviving contract we know the name of the man, Jean de Montagnac, who commissioned this painting, Charonton's chef d'oeuvre, the exact date when it was painted, and the painter's name. The Coronation of the Virgin is the central scene of this enormous, elaborate composition.

The decorative figure of the Virgin, floating in gold and red brocade in the middle distance, is flanked by God the Father and by Jesus, both depicted as men of the same age, with the same facial characteristics and clothes. On their right and left a multitude of smaller figures of the blessed angels, young children, monks, bishops, kings and popes, and the common folk adore the heavenly scene before them. Below, in a long miniature scene, Christ is raised up on high on the cross with the donor kneeling at its foot. To the right and left of the crucifix, in a horizontal landscape of sea and hills, are two walled towns, representing imaginary views of Jerusalem to the right and Rome to the left. The latter incorporates certain easily recognizable buildings of mediaeval Villeneuve-les-Avignon. The towns are respectively flanked by two subsidiary scenes of the Burning Bush and the Mass of St. Gregory; and below again the whole composition is completed by a more roughly sketched representation of tiny figures of the blessed and the damned at the Last Judgment. The Madonna is perhaps the most typically French creature in mediaeval French painting, a lovely woman with narrow eyes, a delicate face and slightly long nose.

There are innumerable tiny details in this painting which charm, there is a mastery in the individuality of each of the human characters, a skill in the creation of the landscape, and great powers in the monumental fusion of numerous elements in the composition that combine to fill the onlooker with admiration, particularly as colours, forms and details all serve to focus attention on the inner meaning of the painting.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.