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Work The Assumption of the Virgin

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

The Assumption of the Virgin

© 1993 RMN / Gérard Blot

Italian painting

Bastien Speranza

Commissioned by Clemens August Wittelsbach (the duke of Bavaria, Prince-Elector of Cologne, and Grand-Master of the Order of Teutonic Knights) for the high altar of the church of Sachsenhausen near Frankfurt (Germany), this painting was exhibited with great success in Venice after its completion.

Body and soul

The painting records the episode of the Assumption of the Virgin. According to religious tradition going back to the 4th century, after her "dormition" - a term that designates the state of half-death in which the Virgin remained after her decease - Mary was called in "body and soul" to the kingdom of heaven. The apostles watch in amazement as the Virgin ascends into the sky from her tomb, accompanied by a host of angels.

Ecstatic postures

Piazzetta divided his painting into two registers. In the lower third of the canvas, the aged apostles strike postures that are ecstatic, even grandiloquent (the man in white with his arms outspread). The upper two-thirds are entirely devoted to the celestial host and the upward flight of the Virgin, strikingly foreshortened. The framing, on a more horizontal plane, accentuates the dynamic upward movement; the group of apostles seems as though crushed by this whirling celestial tumult.

A light and vibrant painting

Commissioned by the elector-archbishop of Cologne for the church of Sachsenhausen, The Assumption marks a turning point in Piazzetta's career. The artist moves away from the rather somber hues of his earlier works, opting for a much lighter palette. He employs softened illumination, which dissipates the shadows and unifies the different parts of the composition. Before Tiepolo (1696-1770), Piazzetta conquered Europe - the German provinces in particular - with his light and vibrant paintings, well-suited to the whirling effects of the northern Baroque.

Technical description

  • Giambattista PIAZZETTA (Venice, 1682 - Venice, 1754)

    The Assumption of the Virgin


  • H. 5.17 m; W. 2.45 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1796 , 1796

    INV. 20022

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Room 718

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