By Anne Leader

August 15th is the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Virgin. Though not made official church doctrine until 1950, several apocryphal gospels written between the 2nd and 4th centuries report how Mary’s body was taken up into heaven after her earthly life ended. These events comprise three image types: The Dormition, The Assumption, and the Coronation. A fourth image shows a second Annunciation, in which Gabriel brings Mary a palm branch to foretell her death. According to the “Discourse of St. John the Divine,” Mary did not die, but fell asleep. Dormition images show her body laid out on a bier as if at a funeral, while Assumption iconography shows her rising triumphantly into heaven to the surprise of the apostles. Upon her arrival, she was crowned Queen of Heaven by her son. All of these events have been portrayed by numerous Italian artists over the centuries.

Annibale Carracci, Assumption of the Virgin, 1600-1, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

Duccio, Announcement of Death to the Virgin and The Dormition, 1308-11, tempera on wood, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Fra Angelico, Reliquary Tabernacle with Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1430, tempera and gold on panel, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Bartolo di Fredi, The Coronation of the Virgin, 1388, tempera on panel, Museo Civico e Diocesano d’Arte Sacra, Montalcino

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin, 1516-18, oil on wood, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Correggio, Assumption of the Virgin, 1526-30, fresco, Duomo, Parma

Pietro Perugino, Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1506, panel, Santissima Annunziata, Florence

Bastiano Mainardi, Assumption of the Virgin with the Gift of the Girdle, early 16th century, fresco, Santa Croce, Florence

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