Guariento di Arpo, Coronation of the Virgin Altarpiece: Pentecost and the Last Judgment
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
The left panel pictures eleven Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit on the day known as Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). It is not clear why only eleven should be included; the choice of Matthias as the twelfth Apostle is recounted just before the Pentecost episode, in Acts 1:15-26.
At the apex of the arch one can just make out some rays emanating from a hand reaching down from on high. Most likely, a hand and rays painted over the gold ground have now been lost. That would be what Peter and his seatmates are gazing up at.
Another unusual feature is the arrangement of the group. Until the 12th century it was traditional for Peter to be the central figure, but by the mid-14th it was usual to put the Virgin Mary in the center. Her absence is especially puzzling given the artist's penchant for putting her into other contexts in the altarpiece, such as the Last Judgment at right.
The Last Judgment panel replaces the more usual image of St. Michael with the cross on which Christ died, complete with three nails and an "YNRI" plaque. On the left, saved souls arise from their tombs; on the right, the damned fall headlong into Hell. At the far left, Mary takes the hand of an elderly woman with a walking stick. Norman refers to the latter simply as "a woman," but the gray garment with the white wimple could be a nun's habit, and it is further possible that originally there was a halo behind her head.
In the small roundel between the two panels is an image of St. Ursula. The red-cross flag is her attribute.
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Go to the page describing the altarpiece as a whole.
Read more about images of Pentecost.
Read more about images of the Last Judgment.
Read more about images of St. Ursula.
Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.