Glorification of Mary
Guido di Pietro, then Fra' Giovanni Angelico known as Beato Angelico (Vicchio di Mugello (Fi), ca.1395-Rome 1455)
The painting depicts the Virgin Mary assumed into Heaven, sitting enthroned next to Christ the Redeemer, amid jubilant angels dancing and playing instruments, and in the presence of hosts of saints. The Virgin is crowned queen, an iconography which, despite having no references in the Holy Scriptures, was very popular until the Middle Ages and associated with the triumph of the Church. However, the Uffizi painting shows a rather rare variant of the traditional depiction of the crowning of the Virgin: The Saviour does not place the crown on Mary's head, but is about to adorn the diadem with a precious stone. This detail probably translates into image a vision of the mystic Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), who in a passage of her Revelations imagined Jesus Christ enriching Mary's crown with lilies and precious stones.
The dense hosts of saints consist of over forty figures of saints, each one different from the other and carefully characterized so that many can be identified. Among them, gathered in the foreground on the right, it’s possible to recognize Mary Magdalene, kneeling with her long hair down, and Lucy, who is dressed in blue and holding an oil lamp. On the other side, in the foreground, Saint Jerome is kneeling in cardinal's clothing, followed by Saint Dominic, who is wearing a black and white robe, and Bishop Giles, whose name is written in gold on his collar. The importance given to this saint is related to the destination of the painting: an altar in the partition of the hospital church of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, dedicated to St. Giles. The panel was complemented by a predella consisting of two compartments depicting the Marriage and Death of the Virgin, now in the St. Mark's Museum (inv.1890 no.1493, 1501), which were separated from the painting above them as early as the 16th century.
Alongside Masaccio, Beato Angelico was a leading figure of Florentine painting in the early Renaissance; he was able to combine his artistic skills with profound religious sentiment, translating complex theological concepts into seraphic visions. In the Uffizi painting, the compact and uniform gold-ground, which was typical of medieval tradition, is moved by the engraved halo on which the light refracts, while the semi-circular arrangement of the figures and the slight decrease of their dimensions suggest a sense of depth.
The painting has been on display at the Uffizi since 1825.
S. Nocentini, in Beato Angelico, l’alba del Rinascimento, a cura di A. Zuccaro, G. Morello, G. de Simone, Milano 2009, pp. 178-179; G. de Simone in Bagliori dorati. Il Gotico internazionale a Firenze 1375-1440, a cura di A. Natali, E. Neri Lusanna, A. Tartuferi, Firenze 2012, p. 168; N. Silver in Fra Angelico. Heaven on Earth, a cura di N. Silver, Londra, 2018, pp. 180-193