This unusually large panel painting depicts three facets of Marian iconography: the Virgin's corporeal assumption, the Immaculate Conception—the crescent moon and the radiance behind her identify Mary as the Woman of the Apocalyse, mentioned in Revelation 12:I—and the Coronation of the Virgin. The painting is of great interest to musicologists in that it depicts Renaissance instruments with great accuracy and also reflects contemporary performance practices in the arrangement of the music–making angels. At the top, a full orchestra plays before the three figures of the Trinity. The ensemble around the Virgin is a mixed consort composed of "loud" instruments (trumpets and shawms) and "soft" instruments (vielle, lute, and harp). Two of the singing angels hold books bearing legible lyrics and notations. This music, which is the source of the painting's title, has been identified as derived from a setting of the Marian antiphon, Ave Regina Caelorum, by Walter Frye (d. 1474/1475), an English composer whose works were popular on the Continent, particularly at the Burgundian court.
Historians refer to the artist as the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend because his principal work, an alterpiece dated 1480, depicts episodes from the life of that saint. His style is characterized in both paintings by oval faces that are restrained in expression, the use of extraordinarily intense color, and a tendency to over–emphasize elaborate textures.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Early Netherlandish Painting, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/early-netherlandish-painting.pdf
on the sheet of music held by the angel to the left of the Virgin's head: A / ve regina celorum mr regis[?]; on the sheet of music held by the angel to the right of the Virgin's head: A / Tenor ve / regina
Probably Don Pedro Fernández de Velasco, Count of Haro and Constable of Castile [d. 1492], for the convent of Santa Clara, Medina de Pomar, near Burgos, until at least 1934. Raimundo Ruiz y Ruiz, Madrid. (French & Company, New York, by c. 1947); purchased 1949 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 by exchange to NGA.
- Garcia Sáinz de Baranda, Julián. Medina de Pomar. Como Lugar Arqueológico y Centro de Turisma de las Merindades de Castilla-Vieja. Alcala de Henares, 1934: 88.
- Frankfurter, Alfred. "Interpreting Masterpieces. Twenty-four Paintings from the Kress Collection." Art News 50 (1951): 101-102, repro. 104, 101.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 182, no. 80, repro.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Interpreting Masterpieces: Twenty-four Paintings from the Kress Collection." Art News Annual 16 (1952): 101-102, repro. 104
- Walker, John. "Your National Gallery of Art After 10 Years." National Geographic Magazine 101 no. 1 (January 1952): 76, repro. 100.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. "The National Gallery of Art at Washington: Acquisitions 1945-1955." The Studio 150, no. 748 (July 1955): 6.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 21.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 286, repro.
- Verhaegen, Nicole. "Le Maître de la Légende de sainte Lucie. Précisions sur son oeuvre." Bulletin de l'Institut royal du Patrimoine artistique 2 (1959): 81-82.
- Broadley Hugh T. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 5 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 26-27, color repro.
- Baudouin, Frans. "Der Meister des Bartholomäusaltares und die südniederländische Malerei des 15. Jahrhunderts." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 23 (1961): 357-358.
- Goldblatt, Maurice. Deux grands maîtres français. Paris, 1961: 42, 44, fig. 21.
- Seymour, Charles. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 68, 218, fig. 61, color fig. 62.
- Verhaegen, Nicole. "Un important retable du Maître de la Légende de sainte Lucie conservé à Tallinn." Bulletin de l'Institut royal du Patrimoine artistique 4 (1961): 143.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 58, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 106, repro.
- Winternitz, Emanuel. "On Angel Concerts in the 15th Century: A Critical Approach to Realism and Symbolism in Sacred Painting." The Musical Quarterly 49 (1963): 263, 459-460, pl. 5. (Reprinted as Musical Instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art New York, 1967: 145-149, pl. 66, 67).
- Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio. Pintura europea perdida por España, de van Eyck a Tiépolo. Madrid, 1964: 27, no. 32, pl. X.
- Kenney, Sylvia. Walter Frye and the Contenance Angloise. New Haven and London, 1964: 153-155, pls. 6-9.
- Chrisman, Jo, and Charles B. Fowler. "Music Performance in a Renaissance Painting." Music Educators' Journal (November/December, 1965): 93-98, pls. I-VIII and cover.
- Eisler, Colin. "The Sittow Assumption." Art News 64 (September, 1965): 35-37, fig. 6.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 87.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:90-91, color repro.
- Schiller, Gertrud. Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst. 6 vols. Gütersloh, 1966-1990: 4, pt. 2: 170, 258 436, fig. 776.
- Friedländer, Max J. Early Netherlandish Painting. 14 vols. in 16. Brussels and Leiden, 1967-1976: 6,part 2(1971):115, Add. 277, pl. 257.
- European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 76, no. 1096, repro.
- Rensch, Roslyn. The Harp. Its History, Technique and Repertoire. London, 1969: 56-57.
- Cooke, Hereward Lester. The National Gallery of Art in Washington. Munich and Ahrbeck/Hanover, 1970: 64-65, color fig. 29.
- Meyer-Baer, Kathi. Music of the Spheres and the Dance of Death. Princeton, 1970: 170-171, fig. 82.
- Carapezza, Paolo. "Regina angelorum in musica picta. Walter Frye e il `Maître au Feuillage Brodé.'" Revista italiana di musicologia 10 (1975): 135-136, 152-154, pl. 4.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue (National Gallery of Art). Washington, 1975: 226-227, no. 1096, repro.
- Fischer, Pieter. Music in Paintings of the Low Countries in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Amsterdam, 1975: 8, fig. 9, 10.
- Winternitz, Emanuel. "Secular Musical Practice in Sacred Art." In The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975: 230, repro. 231.
- Larsen, Erik. Review of Friedländer 1971, vol. 6. In Art Journal 35 (1976): 298.
- Mirimonde, Albert P. de. "La musique chez les peintres de la fin de l'ancienne école de Bruges." Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1976): 42-51, figs. 17-23.
- Mirimonde, Albert P. de. "Le sablier, la musique et la danse dans les `Noces de Cana' de Paul Véronèse." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 88 (1976): 134.
- Vos, Dirk de. "Nieuwe toeschrijvingen aan de Meester van de Lucialegende alias de Meester van de Rotterdamse Johannes op Patmos." Oud Holland 90 (1976): 157.
- Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 61-63, figs. 54, 55, as The Assumption and Coronation of the Immaculately Conceived Virgin by The Master of the St. Lucy Legend and Assistant, color repro detail.
- Pope-Hennessy, John. "Completing the Account." Review of Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, London 1977. Times Literary Supplement no. 3,927 (17 June 1977).
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 52-53, pl. 34.
- Châtelet, Albert. Early Dutch Painting. New York, 1981: 227, no. 102.
- Roberts, Ann. "The Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy: A Cataloque and Critical Essay." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1982: 92-95, 154-159, 185, 190, 194, 202-207, 219-222, cat. no. 7, figs. 13, 14.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 136, no. 133, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 258, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 177-183, repro. 178.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 185, 186, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 43, repro.
- Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. "Virgin/Virginity." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:905.
- Pinson, Yona. “Music." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 2:636.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 52-53, no. 37, color repro.
- Weniger, Matthias. Sittow, Morros, Juan de Flandes: Drei Maler aus dem Norden am Hof Isabellas der Katholischen. Kiel, 2011: 130, no. N49.
The support consists of six boards with vertical grain. X-radiographs show that the joins are reinforced with dowels. A smooth white ground is present. The presence of a barbe on all sides indicates that the panel is very close to its original size and was painted in an engaged frame. In general, the painting is in very good condition, but there are numerous small losses throughout and somewhat larger losses in the upper paint layers of the landscape. Some retouches have darkened. Examination with infrared reflectography reveals extensive underdrawing, discussed below. The painting was cleaned and restored in 1950-1951 and a very small area of flaking paint was restored in 1962.
 Kress 1951, 182, states that the paint was applied directly to the panel without an intervening ground; this error is repeated by Walker 1963, 106, but corrected in Eisler 1977, 63, n. 6.