Assumption of the Virgin in Art
Along with some scenes of Christ's life (Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection) the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Heaven is one of the great themes of painters, partly also due to the large number of churches dedicated to Mary. Below some fine interpretations of the theme are collected.
Francesco Botticini - National Gallery, London
A tempera on panel (228,6x377,56 cm), the work was the altarpiece of the Palmieri funeral Chapel in San Pier Maggiore, Florence; it was purchased by the National Gallery in London in 1882. It is dated to around 1475 - 1476, since the sponsor, Matteo Palmieri, depicted kneeling on the left, while his widow Niccolosa is kneeling on the other side, died in 1475. At the center the Apostles around the empty tomb of the Virgin, received at top by Christ and the angels in heaven.
Cimabue - Upper Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi
The fresco (350x320 cm), greatly ruined by the passing of time, is located in the apse, and dates from around 1277 to 1283. Inspired by the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, the fresco shows a further post-mortem stage after the Transfer and the Dormition of the Virgin. Divided into horizontal bands, starting from the bottom with the sarcophagus of Mary, with the cloth hanging on the edge and the apostles, the composition continue in the orderly rows of saints (patriarchs, martyrs and confessors), and culminates in the almond-shaped container with Christ and Mary reclining her head on the Son's shoulder, symbolizing a mystical marriage between Christ and his Church.
Pinturicchio - Cappella Basso Della Rovere
The "Basso Della Rovere chapel" is located in the south aisle of the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. The chapl is decorated by a cycle of frescoes of Pinturicchio and his workshop (1471-1484).
Correggio, Dome of the Cathedral of Parma
The fresco (1093x1155 cm at the base), dating from about 1524-1530, is located in the dome above the main altar of the Cathedral of Parma. Correggio organized the space around a vortex of bodies in flight, which created a spiral visually removing the physicality of the wall structure: the characters, more that painted on the plaster, seem to hover in the air.
Mantegna - Chiesa degli Eremitani, Padova
The fresco, 238 cm at the base), dated 1453-1457, is in the Ovetari chapel, on a wall of the apse, next to the window. With the limited space available, Mantegna was compelled to set the scene vertically on two rows, with Mary and Angels at top and the Apostles in the lower. The eight real-size apostles are represented in a semicircle behind the arch, so that some of them seem to get out of the space of the fresco. At the top of Mary, surrounded by angels, is ascending and looking anxiously toward the top, with outstretched arms. The angels, by mighty roundness, followed by a rhythmic and symmetrical layout, which shows the upward motion with the lines of force.
Raffaello Sanzio - Pinacoteca Vaticana
The "Pala degli Oddi" is an oil on panel transferred to canvas (267x163 cm) of Raffaello Sanzio, dating from 1502 to 1503. The painting shows the coronation of the Virgin, divided into two rows: at top the heavenly scene, with Jesus crowning Mary, in the presence of four angels playing musical instruments, cherubim and seraphim in the air; in the bottom row the eartly scene, with the uncovered tomb and the marveled apostles attending the event From the sarcophagus, placed sideways, protrude white lilies and roses, the flowers typically offered to the Virgin Mary.
Lorenzo Lotto - Cathedral of Asolo (Bologna)
The Altarpiece is an oil painting on canvas (175x162 cm) by Lorenzo Lotto, dated 1506. The artist represents a statuesque Mary, in old age, transported upward by four angels within a mandorla of light. The presence of the two saints at the sides, Antonio Abate and Louis of Toulouse, however, would point more to a "vision" than an "assumption", being also absent the apostles. The two saints are both connected to the activities of the Flagellants, who ran a hospital for the care of the sick and needy in the place. A peculiarity is the presence of over twenty different plant species.
Pietro Perugino - Pala di Corciano
The painting, oil on panel (226x149 cm for the central panel) is dated 1513, and preserved in the church of Santa Maria in Corciano (PG). The artist represents the Assumption of the Virgin inside an almond among angels praying and plaiyng music, cherubim and seraphim, while below the apostles are detached from the upper section, immersed in a hilly landscape that fades into the distance. The technique used is the typical "sfumato".
Tiziano Vecellio - Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice
The huge oil on canvas, 7 metres high, is dated 1516-1518, and was made for to central altar of the Basilica, where it is still today. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Titian, such an innovative work that astonished his contemporaries. The subject was interpreted in a revolutionary way: the traditional tomb of Mary disappeared with every reference to death; the focused is on the upward motion of Mary, the blazing God and the confusion created by this vision. The moments of the assumption and coronation are combined in three rows: the Apostles at bottom, Mary transported by angels on a cloud in the middle, and God the Father and the angels on top; all the figures are connected by glances, gestures and force lines.
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