National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Assumption of the Virgin Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Anonymous Artist (painter)
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (related artist)
Flemish, 1577 - 1640
The Assumption of the Virgin, probably mid 1620s
oil on panel
overall (image only, without wooden shims): 123.5 x 92 cm (48 5/8 x 36 1/4 in.) overall (with wooden shims): 125.4 x 94.4 cm (49 3/8 x 37 3/16 in.) framed: 157.5 x 125.7 x 8.3 cm (62 x 49 1/2 x 3 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.32
On View
From the Tour: Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Object 7 of 8

As recounted in the New Testament's Apocrypha, Jesus' mother was physically raised (assumed) to heaven after her death. A choir of angels lifts Mary's body upward in a dramatic spiraling motion toward a burst of divine light. The twelve apostles gather around her tomb. Some raise their hands in awe; others reach down to touch her discarded shroud. The three holy women are probably Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary's two sisters. The kneeling woman holds a flower, referring to the blossoms that miraculously filled the empty coffin.

In 1611, the cathedral at Antwerp announced a competition for an Assumption altar. On February 16, 1618, Rubens submitted two models. He finished the huge altarpiece on September 30, 1626. Thus, fifteen years elapsed between the beginning and conclusion of this project. The cathedral needed the time to complete a majestic marble frame.

This oil sketch is probably a replica of Rubens' original modello, which is now in the Mauritshuis, in The Hague. The Hague study has livelier, more spontaneous brushwork, and it is arched at the top, reflecting the marble frame of the cathedral altarpiece.

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