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Tyrolese, 'The Dormition of the Virgin', about 1420-30

Key facts
Full title The Dormition of the Virgin
Artist Tyrolese
Date made about 1420-30
Medium and support Oil and egg tempera on pine
Dimensions 88.9 × 71.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the 1st Viscount Rothermere, 1926
Inventory number NG4190
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Dormition of the Virgin

The dormition of the Virgin is the term used to refer to her death and literally means the ‘falling asleep’. According to the Golden Legend (a thirteenth-century compilation of the lives of the saints), Saint John the Evangelist was miraculously brought to her side, followed by all the apostles (from wherever in the world they had been preaching the message of Christ). Together they performed the death rites for her.

The saint in the white robes swinging the censer is Peter; the clean-shaven figure holding the palm leaf is John. In front of the bed, a monk kneels in prayer; he may be the painting’s patron.

The picture is unusual in that it seems to show 13 apostles, when there were only 12. It may have been made as part of a larger painting, perhaps an altarpiece, possibly for the Cistercian monastery at Stams in Tyrol, Austria.

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