Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Coronation of the Virgin

Folio 60v

The cycle devoted to Mary ends with this magnificent Coronation of the Virgin, which illustrates the last hour of the day, compline. The Limbourgs have done justice to the theme, which had inspired medieval artists from the thirteenth century on.
Against the blue background of the sky spreads a golden arabesque of angels' wings and saints' halos, in the middle of which the Virgin's purple mantle contrasts with Christ's deep blue robe.
Mary is not placed on the Lord's right, as she was on the portals of numerous cathedrals, but is shown kneeling with bowed head before her Son, awaiting His benediction. This is a new conception of the scene, which later in the fifteenth century was to be repeated and made well known by Fra Angelico.
In the French pictorial tradition, she is crowned not by her Son but by an angel. Christ wears a crown, and five angels above Him hold three crowns which perhaps symbolize the Trinity.
Angels' wings flare behind and above the Virgin, recalling Dante's description of the scene in Canto XXXI of Paradiso: " ... with outstretched wings, I saw more than a thousand Angels making festival, each one distinct in glow and art."
Several attending angels hold her train, and in the sky others play different instruments: trumpet, lute, viol, portable organ, harp, and dulcimer.
On the right is a procession of saints, among whom Peter and Paul are recognizable, the first by his beard and wiry hair, the second by his baldness.
The pure-faced Saint Clare, in nun's habit, stands above a virgin with a bare neck, perhaps Saint Catherine, whose life was depicted by the Limbourgs in the Belles Heures. The group is completed by a queen who wears a crown on her arm like a bracelet.
Three other saints stand in the left foreground: Stephen, Francis, and a bishop, difficult to identify because he lacks specific characteristics, but who could be Saint Denis since he wears the purple attributed to martyrs.

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