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Gerolamo da Vicenza, The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin

Key facts
Full title The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin
Artist Gerolamo da Vicenza
Artist dates active 1488
Date made 1488
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 33.7 × 22.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3077
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin
Gerolamo da Vicenza

Although it is set in a Renaissance town square, this small but busy painting shows the Dormition (literally the ‘falling asleep’, from the Latin dormire) and Assumption of the Virgin Mary. There is nothing in the Bible about the Virgin’s death, but in the medieval Catholic Church it was generally believed that Christ first carried her soul up to heaven and returned three days later for her body.

In the centre the body of the Virgin lies on an elaborate bier; Christ leans over her. Above, he carries her up to heaven in a giant golden glow. Angelic musicians crowd around the bier; others carrying candles process behind it. At the very front a man in black seems to be watching the whole show.

The Dormition was often presented as a medieval death scene. Here it looks more like a theatrical performance and might indeed reflect the kind of religious theatre that was common in fifteenth-century Italy.

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