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The Assumption of the Virgin: An Analysis

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    The Assumption of the Virgin: An Analysis

                The Italian Renaissance produced some of the greatest artist and they in turn produced great masterpieces.  The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian, an alter piece located in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a Basilica in Venice, Italy is a perfect example of a masterpiece from the period.

    Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin – located above the high altar in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari – one of the largest paintings in the world, looked absolutely stunning in the sunlight streaming in through the Gothic windows (Titians: The Assumption of the Virgin).

     The work of art is rounded at the top of the painting with the background of heaven in a neutral color with a slight pink hue.  The frame of the upper two thirds of the painting is of rounded disembodied cherub faces which are like those of an infant.  God is at the top most section of the painting along with a cherub and angel holding a crown to reward the ascending Virgin.  The Virgin appears ready to leave life and the earth because her arms are raised to meet God.  Her feet are resting on a cloud that also holds a multitude of tiny cherubs to aid her on her journey.  The twelve apostles are making gestures that seem to indicate that something will be lost in the world once she is gone.

                The Assumption of the Virgin was painted by Titian in fifteen eighteen which was during the Italian Renaissance.  It was during this time that the subject of much of the art created at the time was of a religious theme and this painting was one that the critics of the day were not sure met the standards of the time.

    The Assumption of the Virgin for the high altar of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (1516–18), established his place as the leading painter of the city. Contemporaries noted that some viewers were uneasy with its novel portrayal of the dynamically twisting Virgin and the gesticulating apostles below. It broke with tradition as well in the heroic scale of the figures and the use of bold color. (Titan)

    The Roman Catholic Church was rooted in Italy and that is why the Italian Renaissance focused on that particular theme.  There was also a strong revival of the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome.  The clothing of the Virgin and the twelve disciples are of the loose draping from the ancient times.

                The formal elements of The Assumption of the Virgin are evident when viewing the painting.  The lines in the art are mainly visible in the clothing of the subjects.  From God down to Mary’s waist the lines are horizontal and draw the eye from left to right, but from her waist down to the bottom of the painting they are vertical which draws the eye heavenward.  The illusion of light is seems to burst once the eye is drawn up past the cloud which Mary rest her feet.  It is symbolic of heaven and everlasting life and light that will be her eternity.  All things of heaven are in the bright light while the disciples are still in the darkness of the earth.  Mary is arrayed in the traditional colors of a red dress and a blue outer wrap and hood.  God is dressed in the same colors as Mary and this allows for a connection between the two.  The disciples are dressed in either white or a vivid orange that symbolizes their holiness and their sinful nature as men.  Motions is represented in the way that the scene is a moment frozen in time.  The positioning of the bodies of the subjects reveals that there were strong movements just before the scene and they will continue as soon as then next moment comes.

                The painting displays emotions that are I feel are touching that is why it was an easy choice to analyze this particular painting.  The raw emotion of the disciples as they give up their most valued link to the man who they believed in enough to sacrifice their lives, is touching.  The fact that the childlike cherubs come to escort Mary to heaven is also reassuring.  It is a moment that draws the viewer into the scene.  It makes me feel that if ascending to heaven is welcoming and blissful, then death is not something to be feared.


    “Assumption of the Virgin.” Andrew Cusack. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from   

    Delahunt, M. Artlex. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from

    “Titan.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from

    “Titan.”  Olga’s Gallery. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from

    “Titian: The Assumption of the Virgin.”  Flikr.  Retrieved November 22, 2008 from


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    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What is the meaning behind the Assumption of the Virgin?
    Assumption Day commemorates the belief that when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, died, her body was "assumed" into heaven to be reunited with her soul, instead of going through the natural process of physical decay upon death.
    Why did Titian paint Assumption of the Virgin?
    This religious scene commemorates the assumption of Mary which is celebrated annually within the Catholic Church, and it was painted as the first popular commissioned work of Titian for the city of Venice between 1516 and 1518.

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