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Coronation of the Virgin, Tempera by Fra Angelico (1395-1455, Italy)
This is the fresco on the wall of Cell 9 of the Convento di San Marco in Florence. The glory of St Mary, a theme dear to Angelico is acclaimed by six kneeling saints. The saints represented on the lower part are (from the left) St Thomas, St Benedict, St Dominic, St Francis, St Peter the Martyr and St Mark. The fresco probably belongs to the first ones executed in the Convent by Fra Angelico. These six saints can be seen as a token representation of the elect, who surround Christ and the Virgin in heaven in the traditional rendering of this scene. But like so many other figures in the series of San Marco frescoes, they have an air of detachment from the events to which they are nominally witnesses. They hold their hands out in adoration and gaze heavenwards, but none looks directly at the scene of coronation. The Virgin, with her arms folded over her chest, leans forward to receive the crown. She is seated beside Christ, in accordance with the usual composition for this subject. In this series of frescoes at San Marco Angelico has not turned back to medieval prototypes but instead, through economy in the use of figures, restraint in the overt expression of emotion, and austere use of colour, he has created his own meditative images of remarkable force.