|The Assumption of the
The earliest known western account of Mary's bodily assumption into Heaven is in Gregory of Tours' 6th-century Glory of the Martyrs. Seventh-century Greek sermons on the subject by John Damascene and Germanus also circulated in the west in translation, and in succeeding years other works embellished the story. Although the accounts sometimes contradict each other with respect to details, these elements are common to most of them:
Narrative images of the Assumption are often part of compositions that integrate the Dormition and Coronation of the Virgin (example). Details taken from the literature include flowers and musical instruments to signify the "marvelous odor" and "voice of angels" described in most accounts (example) and arranging the apostles around the tomb, as at left. The open horizontal tomb seen at left is the rule for Assumption images, even though the texts seem to assume burial inside some sort of monument. Some later images may show some of the apostles in an initial state of perplexity regarding the empty tomb (example). Annibale Carraci's has them watch awestruck as, still within touching distance, she rises heavenward.
The second Assumption account in the Golden Legend says that it was Christ who took Mary's body up to Heaven, but the art consistently ignores this possibility, perhaps to avoid confusion with Dormition scenes. In the middle ages, angels carry the Virgin aloft in a mandorla (example). In Renaissance and Counter-Reformation art the mandorla loses favor and Mary seems to rise with very little visible assistance or effort, as at left.
There are also portrait images of the "Virgin of the Assumption" with only the Virgin rising through the sky accompanied by angels (example). One unusual narrative image also takes this approach.
In many cases Mary will have a horned moon beneath her feet (example), an allusion to Revelation 12:1 ("And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet").
Feast day: August 15
At left, Rubens, The Assumption of the Virgin
Other narrative images:
Lippi's Assumption and Annunciation
El Greco, Assumption of the Virgin
Window in Chartres Cathedral
Bergognone, Assumption of the Virgin
Painting in the Lateran Basilica
Another portrait image:
Silver statuette of the Virgin of the Assumption
Gregory of Tours, from Glory of the Martyrs
The Passing of Mary (cached)
The Account of St. John on the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God (cached)
The Golden Legend #119: html or pdf
Comparative summaries of the above