Scenes of the Life of the Virgin, from an Embroidered Altar Frontal

Scenes of the Life of the Virgin, from an Embroidered Altar Frontal

1330s or 1340s

Silk, gold thread, linen; raised work, embroidery: split, stem, running, fishbone, and couching stitches

Overall: 16.8 x 127 cm (6 5/8 x 50 in.); Mounted: 27.9 x 137.2 cm (11 x 54 in.)

Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1978.36



Florence was renowned for fine embroidery during the 1300s, yet hardly any has survived. This rare panel originally hung directly above a large embroidery that decorated the front of an altar. Executed in a beautiful lyrical style on a luxurious gold-thread ground, the narrative begins with the Virgin’s parents and her early life, now in the Toledo Museum of Art’s collection, and continues here with the Annunciation of the Virgin, the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation of Christ, Christ Among the Doctors, and the Assumption of the Virgin. The Death of the Virgin scene is likely missing.

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