Lorenzo Monaco
The Coronation of the Virgin Mary

Tempera on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

In the center is the traditional way of picturing the coronation. Christ puts a crown on the Virgin Mary's head. She expresses acceptance with the "praying hands" gesture, which seems to be pictured about as often as the one in which she crosses her arms over her chest. Both are seated on a single throne and surrounded by angels.

Many of the saints in attendance can be identified by their attributes. In the front row on the left, left to right, are St. Romuald (white habit, book with his writings, walking stick, fringe around bald pate), St. Peter (keys, square beard), and St. John the Baptist (camel-hair tunic, long cross). Romuald founded the Camaldolese order, for whose church in Florence this altarpiece was painted by Lorenzo Monaco, who was himself a member of the order.1

Behind those three are St. Stephen (stones on head), St. Paul (sword, letters), and St. Margaret of Antioch (cross). In the back row are St. Ursula (red-cross banner) and others I cannot make out.

In the front row on the right are, left to right, an evangelist (St. Mark?), St. Philip (long cross), and St. Benedict (crozier, book). The latter's habit is white, as occurs only infrequently in Benedict's portraits, but in the predella he and his monks are invariably dressed in white. The book would then be the Rule that he composed. In the second row are St. Lawrence (gridiron), St. Bartholomew (flaying knife), a bishop (St. Augustine in his pontificals?), and St. Francis (Franciscan habit).

If the bishop is St. Augustine, he would be representing the Augustinian order, as Francis and Benedict are representing theirs. Conspicuously absent from this group of founders is St. Dominic.

The images in the predella, for which I have created separate pages explaining the narratives behind them, are as follows (left to right):

  1. The death of St. Benedict (Gregory's Dialogues, II, xxxvii)
  2. The monk dragged from prayers by an invisible demon (Dialogues, II, xxxvii)
  3. The birth of Jesus
  4. The adoration of the Magi
  5. St. Maurus walks on water (Dialogues, II, vii).
  6. St. Benedict revives a boy crushed by a fallen wall (Dialogues, II, xi).

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about the coronation of the Virgin Mary.

Photographed at the Uffizi by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 Vasari, II, 111-12. The church was Santa Maria degli Angeli.