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Art for Meditation - December 2018

Maestro della Passione di Lyversberg

Master of the Lyversberg Passion (working in Cologne between 1460 and 1490), Coronation of Mary, around 1464, 101,6 cm x 133 cm, oil on oak wood covered with canvas, Munich, Alte Pinakothek

The representation of Mary's coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth is truly solemn. The first thing we notice is that the earth - our world - has practically disappeared from this painting. There is a little mention of it in the two edges of the lawn at the bottom right and left corners, where Johann and Margarete Rinck, the couple who offered the painting for the church of Santa Colomba in Cologne, are kneeling. Today, in the museum of Munich, in addition to this panel, which was certainly the central and main part, there are two other small panels representing St. James the Greater and St. Anthony the Hermit, which were part of the same polyptych. There were certainly other parts in it, but they have been lost.

The viewer's gaze is immediately fixed in the golden sky, which tells us that we are entering a divine space. At the centre is a large throne, supported and surrounded by angels, which is the fulcrum of the painting. The three persons of the Trinity have taken their places on the throne: the Father and the Son support the crown, whereas the Holy Spirit is pouring out his light. All converge on Mary, the young woman who, on her knees and in a prayerful attitude, found grace with God (cf. Lk 1:30) and accepted to become the Mother of the Lord. Even though it is a scene that is in some ways shocking (the Divinity is crowning a woman, the Creator confers glory and honour on a creature), everything is governed by serenity and poise. We have the perception that all the angels on the right and left of the throne are playing a soft and calm music with their different instruments (trumpets, flutes, lyres, violins...).

Some details also increase the sensation of beauty: the globe that the Son holds in his hand inside which we see a landscape worthy of a miniature; the angels under the throne (and we cannot understand if they are raising it or if they are clinging to it to climb up with the Trinity); the composed elegance of the two donors; the richness of the fabric and embroidery of the cope worn by the Father. In short, everything contributes to giving the scene represented the importance that the event has.

We too, looking at Mary, first fruit and summit of redeemed humanity, repeat to her the Angel's greeting: "Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you" and that of her cousin Elizabeth: "Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk 1:28; 42).


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