Black Bourton, Oxfordshire (†Oxford). Late C.13
The Coronation of the Virgin
This, like some of the other paintings at Black Bourton, is in a roundel, always a sign of superior work and almost always a date-indicator. The most famous roundel in English wallpainting is undoubtedly the exquisite Chichester Roundel of the Virgin and Child in the Bishop’s Chapel at Chichester Cathedral – coincidentally there is a now very faded painting of St Richard of Chichester, who was a very active bishop there from 1245, in the church at Black Bourton. He was a student and later Chancellor of Oxford, but what other connection he might have had with this church I do not know.
The workmanship here cannot match the standard of the Chichester artist, but like all the paintings at Black Bourton it is high quality work all the same. Inside the simple painted roundel, Christ, crowned himself, crowns his Mother. They both sit on a long stone bench-like throne – this may have had painted abstract decoration on it at one time, but it is otherwise extremely plain in design. The Virgin’s hair is loose to signify her virginity, and her hands are held pointing upright in prayer.
The subject itself is entirely unbiblical and it begins to emerge from apocryphal sources only in the 13th century. It marks the culmination and pinnacle of the Virgin’s earthly life and translation to Heaven at the Assumption (examples of this latter are occasionally found in parish churches – at Broughton, for example). It takes place in Heaven, fairly obviously, and as an event it is in an important sense outside Time. The example shown here is the simplest form, with only the two figures, along with a censing angel to the right outside the roundel. A later and more elaborate form, the Coronation of the Virgin by the Trinity began to emerge around the turn of the 14th/15th centuries and will be represented in this pages soon. Other paintings in the church – the Baptism of Christ, Saints Peter & Paul, the Adoration of the Magi and the Stoning of Stephen are also on these pages.