The aureole of light, within which the glorified Madonna and her Child when in a standing position are often placed, is of an oblong form, called from its shape the mandorla, "the almond;" but in general she is seated above in a sort of ethereal exaltation, while the attendant saints stand on the earth below.
These two works are among the best and strongest of his paintings. In the principal space, that over the altar, he painted Christ in glory, surrounded by a mandorla, with angels on either side; and in the spandrel on the right, a group of sixteen prophets, seated pyramidally against a blaze of gold background.
On one is Christ seated on the rainbow in the attitude of blessing, within a mandorla, with cruciferous nimbus and the monograms "IC XC," the corners being filled with the symbols and names of the Evangelists; on the back is the Madonna enthroned with the Child, and two angels in circles; above is the inscription "Michael, Mater Dñi, Gabriel."
Thus, when the cluster of angels had descended and the mandorla was resting on the throne, the man who fixed the mandorla with the bolt also unbolted the iron that supported the angel; whereupon he issued forth and walked across the platform, and, having come to where the Virgin was, saluted her and made the Annunciation.
He then returned into the mandorla, and the lights, which had gone out on his issuing forth, being rekindled, the iron that supported him was once more bolted by the man who was concealed below, the bolt that held the mandorla firm was removed, and it was drawn up again; while the singing of the angels in the cluster, and of those in the Heaven, who kept circling round, made it appear truly a Paradise, and the rather because, in addition to the said choir of angels and to the cluster, there was a God the Father on the outer edge of the globe, surrounded by angels similar to those named above and supported by irons, in such wise that the Heaven, the God the Father, the cluster, and the mandorla, with innumerable lights and very sweet music, truly represented Paradise.
On a lintel of the early church of S. Lorenzo is a Christ in a mandorla, supported by angels with a sacred tree on each side and a griffin beyond; a rough astragal moulding surrounds the subject. The jambs have a rough arabesque scroll, terminating in a two-headed bird. These carvings are all of the ninth century.
A rich frame, fit setting for the jewel, encloses an outer circle of adoring angels, and within, the central panel contains only the full length figure of the Virgin with her child, against a mandorla formed of golden rays running from centre to circumference. The Madonna is enveloped in a long, dark blue cloak, drawn around her head like a Byzantine veil.
The other binding, which is rather later in style, shows our Lord in Glory, with the monograms "IHS XPC" in an ornamented mandorla, and the Evangelists' symbols; and, on the back, the Crucifixion, with the feet separate.
Afterwards, on Jacopo coming to Florence, the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, by reason of the good report that they had heard of him, commissioned him to make in marble the frontal that is over that door of the church which leads to the Nunziata, wherein, in a mandorla, he made the Madonna being borne to Heaven by a choir of angels sounding instruments and singing, with the most beautiful movements and the most beautiful attitudes seeing that they have vivacity and motion in their flight that had ever been made up to that time.
When the cluster of angels had reached its place, this mandorla, which was fastened to the aforesaid little rope, was lowered very gradually by the unwinding of the rope with another little windlass, and arrived at the platform where the Representation took place; and on this platform, precisely on the spot where the mandorla was to rest, there was a raised place in the shape of a throne with four steps, in the centre of which there was a hole wherein the iron point of the mandorla stood upright.