Crowning of the Elect

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Luca Signorelli, Crowning of the Elect, 1499-1504
By BLAIR HUXMAN

In Crowning of the Elect, Luca Signorelli depicts the stark contrast between heaven and earth by showing the savagery of the human condition and the perfection of heavenly beauty. In the painting, angels bestow select humans with a golden crown. The angels rejoice in the heavens and play music for the celebration. They dress elegantly with flowing fabrics, and they possess  golden, curly hair. Below, the humans toil in their most natural and primitive state: naked and vulnerable. Their nudity provides a sharp contrast to the angels elegance and perfection. They desperately want the glory of being crowned and joining God’s kingdom; but only a select few receive the honor. The humans gather like animals in a packed group and gape wide eyed above like carp during feeding time. Those who are chosen prepare for ascension into heaven.

“The region above the heavens He had adorned with Intelligences, the heavenly spheres He had quickened with eternal souls, and the excrementory and filthy parts of the lower world He had filled with a multitude of animals of every kind.” -Pico Della Mirandola

This quote by Pico Della Mirandola reflects the scene shown in Signorelli’s work. Signorelli depicts the heavens as an ideal of excellence and beauty that humans cannot achieve. God created the heavens to be perfect and without sin, while the earth would be full of suffering. God filled the earth with a “multitude of animals of every kind.” Mirandola is talking about not only the different species of animals on earth, but the different types of people as well. Humans are inherently sinful, but there are different levels of bad people can reside in. God filled the world with good and bad people, and some make it to heaven and some do not, as seen in Crowning of the Elect. Mirandola believes destiny can be determined by the individual, not God. He believes God lets us shape our own lives and in the end we will face judgement as God decides if we have earned a place in heaven. This belief plays out in Crowning of the Elect, as we see humans scrambling to get chosen to go to heaven. Some have lived pious lives and have earned a spot, while others are seemed too sinful to ascend.

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