Rubens, Assumption of Virgin (Hamburg)
Rubens Assumption of the Virgin
As recounted in the New Testament’s Apocrypha, Jesus’ mother Mary was physically raised, or assumed, to heaven after her death. In this Assumption of the Virgin, 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 16 February 1618, Rubens submitted two modelli or models to the clergy. He finished the huge altarpiece in September 1626. Thus, fifteen years elapsed between the beginning and conclusion of this project. The cathedral needed the time to complete a majestic marble frame, and Rubens was preoccupied with other commissions.