Friday, August 28, 2009

Assumption of the Virgin

Title: Assumption of the Virgin

Artist: Federico Zuccaro

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd

Date: c. 1566

Location: Museo Diocesano, Cortona.

The Assumption of Mary is a belief held by many Christians that the Virgin Mary, at the end of her life, was physically taken up into heaven. The earliest known narrative is the so-called Liber Requiei Mariae (The Book of Mary's Repose), a narrative which survives intact only in an Ethiopic translation. Probably composed by the 4th century, this early Christian apocryphal narrative may be as early as the 3rd century. The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma that Mary, "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." Pope John Paul II quoted John 14:3 as a scriptural basis for understanding the dogma. In this verse, Jesus tells his disciples at the Last Supper, “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." According to Catholic theology, Mary is the pledge of the fulfillment of Christ's promise.

In Zuccaro’s image, flanked by St John the Baptist to the left and St Catherine of Alexandria to the right, Mary seems to have just begun her rise to Heaven. The clouds have parted and a golden light prepares to receive her. The beauty of Zuccaro’s painting lies in its simplicity, as most images of the Assumption are depicted with the Heavenly Host providing a rapturous reception for the Mother of Jesus. Here, a few simple cherubs gather Mary and provide her escort, the true rapture lying just beyond the upper frame of the picture in the golden clouds.

Federico Zuccaro, also known as Federigo Zuccari (c. 1542 - July 20, 1609), was an Italian Mannerist painter and architect, active both in Italy and abroad. His documented career as a painter began in 1550, when he moved to Rome to work under Taddeo, his elder brother. He went on to complete decorations for Pius IV, and help complete the fresco decorations at the Villa Farnese at Caprarola. In 1585, he accepted an offer by Philip II of Spain to decorate the new Escorial at a yearly salary of 2,000 crowns. He worked at the palace from January 1586 to end of 1588, when he returned to Rome.

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