The Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1492) is the only known collaborative composition between Florentine Renaissance masters Sandro Botticelli (1444/45-1510) and Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), and perhaps the last major work of Ghirlandaio’s career. These artists are known to have collaborated on a number of occasions during the course of their careers, including the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, yet the Coronation is the only surviving example of their shared participation in the design and execution of a single composition.
The painting is one of two altarpieces originally commissioned for the Badia Camaldolese of San Giusto e San Clemente in Volterra, Italy. The work remained within the church until the late 19th century, after earthquakes in the area caused significant structural damage to the building. The Coronation was removed from the church and sold at auction in Florence in 1883, where it entered collections in Latvia (now Belarus), Switzerland, possibly Munich, and eventually purchased by John and Johanna Bass for their personal collection.
The subject of this painting, the coronation of the Virgin Mary as she enters into heaven, was a popular depiction in Renaissance art. The two prominent figures in the top half of the painting, attributed to Botticelli, are the Virgin Mary and Christ (or God the Father), surrounded by music-making angels who joyously welcome their queen into heaven. The lower half of the painting, attributed to Ghirlandaio, depicts saints who witnessed the event from Earth, along with a monk in a pose of devotion at the lower right-hand corner. The composition as a whole replicates established iconography of the Coronation, made popular in the late thirteenth century. All of the figures are rendered realistically, particularly the faces of the Saints and the Camaldolese monk, whom scholars suggest may be a portrait of the donor who commissioned the painting.
The Coronation of the Virgin is the first catalogued artwork from Museum’s founding collection, donated by John and Johanna Bass in 1963. Beginning in November 2018, the painting underwent extensive conservation efforts to reinforce the structural integrity of the more than 500-year-old masterpiece, and to clean and repair the surface layers. In 2020, the painting will travel to Paris, on loan to the Institut de France, Musée Jacquemart-André, for an important exhibition on the life and oeuvre of the Florentine painter Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known today as Sandro Botticelli, uniting a selection of his works from around the world.