Object Image

The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin

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.


Tempera on wood
33.7 x 22.9cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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