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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