The Dormition of the Virgin

The Spanish intellectual and philosopher, Eugenio D’Ors, who was responsible for recovering the treasures of the Prado Museum collection that had been sent to Geneva for their protection during the Spanish Civil War, cites this work as his favourite among all the pictures held by the museum.

Mantegna was a 15th-century Italian painter from the School of Padua. This scene takes place in the Ducal Palace in Mantua. It is a small-sized picture, in which the placing of the Apostles around the Virgin Mary is the main feature. The artist has attempted to make them distinct them by endowing them with a certain amount of realism. If you look closely, you can see that the figures are painted as if they were sculptures; their tunics and mantles are different colours, and there is an unusual halo around their heads, shaped like a golden plate. The expression on their faces is one of grief and sadness. The apostle in the foreground, with his back to us, is holding a censer, drawing a diagonal line that breaks up the monotony of the background.

Landscape is another major feature of this painting. The beautiful Mantua lagoon, which the artist depicted on a grey, cloudy day, provides a sad backdrop to the subject. The artist’s study of perspective - one of the great Renaissance developments, used to provide a sense of depth - is very fine, as can be seen from the tiles on the floor to the Mantua landscape beyond.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns