Caravaggio: Morte della Vergine

Morte della Vergine (1606) is a painting of the Death of the Virgin completed by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Caravaggio.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Caravaggio: Morte della Vergine

Dogmatic questions about the death and Ascension of the Virgin Mary remained unresolved until the end of the 20th century, when first in 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, leaving aside the fact of her physical death, that was only confirmed by John Paul II in 1997. For centuries, however, the Catholic world had been convinced that Mary had been accepted into heaven alive, a belief reflected in many works of art. Caravaggio's painting was the last major work in Catholic art to depict Mary's death without the slightest hint of the Ascension.

It was commissioned by the papal lawyer Laerzio Cherubini for the Carmelite Church of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere. The end result of the work provoked a negative reaction. The court physician of Pope Urban VIII, Giulio Mancini, believed that Caravaggio had used a prostitute or his lover as a model for the Virgin Mary. Giovanni Bellori believed that the rejection was due to the inappropriate pose of the Virgin Mary. Anyway, the parish refused to accept the painting, replacing it with the work of Carlo Saraceni, one of Caravaggio's followers.

On the recommendation of Rubens, who saw it as one of Caravaggio's best works, it was acquired by Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. The Duke's ambassador arranged a week-long exhibition of the painting in his house on the Via del Corso with a strict ban on copying. Before leaving Rome, the painting was exhibited for two weeks at the Accademia di San Luca, but Caravaggio himself had by then fled Rome for good because of the murder of Ranuccio Tomassoni.

The Duke's collection was sold to King Charles I of England in 1627. After the execution of Charles in 1649, the English Republic put the collection up for sale, and it was acquired by the famous collector Everhard Jabach. In 1671 he sold it to Louis XIV for the royal collection, where it remained until the French Revolution, after which it became the property of the state. At present, the painting is kept in the Louvre.

The Morte della Vergine is a prime example of the iconographic revolution set in motion by Caravaggio at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Distancing himself from the pretentious mannerism, the artist introduced a powerful and energetic new style into art. He set out to transfer genuine human emotion to the canvas, unbound by the conventions of the depiction of holiness, and thus had a significant influence on the development of the concepts of fine art in the seventeenth century.

Caravaggio - Morte della Vergine
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