Embroidered Tondo from an Altar Frontal: The Coronation of the Virgin


The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

This masterpiece of Florentine embroidery takes the circular form called a tondo and was likely once attached to an altar frontal. The scene depicts the coronation of the Virgin, the final and culminating event in the narrative cycle of her life. Honoring her as queen of heaven, Christ places the crown on his mother’s head. They are surrounded by eight angels as well as Saints Verdiana and John Gualberto, both much esteemed in Florence, creating a joyous scene. During the Renaissance, Florence emerged as an important center for a specific type of embroidery known as <em>or nué</em>, or shaded gold. This stunning technique used metal and silk threads, as seen here, to create pictures that rivaled paintings. It was frequently used for vestments and altar frontals.

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  • Title: Embroidered Tondo from an Altar Frontal: The Coronation of the Virgin
  • Date Created: 1459
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 57.8 x 57.8 cm (22 3/4 x 22 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: (Erich Lederer, Geneva, Switzerland, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)., The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Embroidery
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1953.129
  • Medium: Embroidery with gold, silver, and silk thread; split, satin, and couching stitches, or nué (shaded gold)
  • Inscriptions: the embroidery is backed by an old reused parchment with Latin writing over which in Italian is penned an inscription: "This pallioto was embroidered in the year 1486 by the venerable Margherita del Caccia nun of this monastery. . ." [It is difficult to know to what extent one should rely on this inscription as the style and technique both point clearly to an earlier date.]
  • Department: Textiles
  • Culture: Italy, Florence
  • Credit Line: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
  • Collection: T - Ecclesiastical
  • Accession Number: 1953.129

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