The mood is one of lavish ceremony, as Christ places an ornate gold crown upon the Virgin Mary’s slightly bowed head. Groups of musical angels watch from either side as she is crowned Queen of Heaven. Gentile da Fabriano used extensive tooling, pastiglia (areas of raised gesso which is molded and then gilded) and rich pigments applied in glazes over the gold leaf to create a sumptuous surface resembling tapestry. The complex patterning, elaborate materials, and the intricacy of the gold tooling are characteristic of Gentile’s works, which were celebrated for their refinement and much sought after by eminent patrons all across the Italian peninsula.
Gentile painted this work for his native town, Fabriano in the Marches, probably for a confraternity associated with the church of San Francesco. Originally the panel was double-sided and served as a processional standard held aloft in parades that honored the Virgin Mary. Sometime prior to 1827, the panel was sawn down the middle to create two paintings; the reverse, depicting the Stigmatization of Saint Francis is now in the collection of the Fondazione Magnani-Rocca, Parma, Italy.