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

Scenes of the Life of the Virgin, from an 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



This rare panel originally hung above a large embroidery that decorated the front of an altar in a church. The narrative begins with the Virgin’s parents and her early life; that panel is now in the Toledo Museum of Art. Cleveland’s portion continues the story with the Annunciation of the Virgin, Adoration of the Shepherds, Adoration of the Magi, Presentation of Christ, Christ among the Doctors, and the Assumption of the Virgin. The Death of the Virgin scene is likely missing. Painters usually sketched designs on stretched linen for embroiderers. Gold thread enriches the background and is secured in place with couching stitches in a small brick pattern.

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