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

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


Embroidery with gold, silver, and silk thread; split, satin, and couching stitches, or nué (shaded gold)

Overall: 57.8 x 57.8 cm (22 3/4 x 22 3/4 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1953.129



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 or nué, 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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