The picture ‘The Death and Assumption of the Virgin’ was created in 1430-1434 by the Italian painter Fra Angelico in Florence during the epoch of Early Renaissance. This city was considered the center of Renaissance; Florentine artists created books, pictures, and sculptures that were followed by the artists and writers from everywhere. Florence was one of the wealthiest places in Europe. It was self-governed and had an independent economy from the rest of Italy.
Due to the textile manufacturing industry growth, Florence was able to maintain economy on the highest level which promoted its inner development in all spheres, religion and art. The concept of humanism followed by the general Italian Renaissance was very powerful in Florence mainly due to the form of government and the fact that all citizens had a possibility to participate in it. The power of individuality was the other feature that developed in the Early Renaissance due to the Florentine impact; it was reflected in respect to human personality and human features in art, even in the religious one. A great attention was also given to the human body and its details; bodies began to be studied properly and respect to them increased a lot. All these features can be found in the picture by Fra Angelico devoted to the Virgin.
The picture ‘The Death and Assumption of the Virgin’ is an example of using tempera technique. Tempera is a special kind of paints that are made by diluting the dry powder with some kind of emulsion. The most common emulsion used for it was the egg yolk, but there were also other variants like oil, clue, and polymers. The history of this technique can be traced back to the ancient times. Until the invention of the oil painting, it was one of the most common and popular techniques. Nowadays, the picture “The Death and Assumption of the Virgin” is owned by the Garden Museum and can be found in the Early Italian room. Primarily, like many other paintings created in the distinguished period, it was crafted for the church and had an ambivalent role of the artistic object and the item for rituals.
Generally, the composition of the picture is rather complicated consisting of two parts that are separated from each other with a clear lining. This line separates two main plots of painting that are distinguished with diverse mood, coloring, and setting. The lower part is clearly smaller than the higher one. In composition, it depicts the death of the Virgin at the Earth. It portrays her coffin, dead body, the figure of Christ with a baby, and the Disciples of Christ around the coffin. Renaissance tradition of individualization, humanism, and interest in human body can be clearly seen in this picture. Primarily, the figures of the disciples illustrate it. Each one is depicted in a certain position, has a specific face expression that differs from that of others, and is painted with the consideration of anatomic details. In some meaning, the painting can be considered rather accurate in the aspect of anatomy. It looks naturalistic mainly because of the personalization of the characters portrayed; they are alive in their demonstration of grief in different ways. Human figures are depicted real in this picture that reflected the synesthesia of two different tendencies that were topical during the epoch. The artist was interested in the human nature, body, and face and at the same time focused on the religious and sacred issues. As compared to the previous epochs, there can be seen clearly the tendencies of humanization in the picture. For instance, this painting is characterized with the emotional aspect of death that is strongly expressed by means of human bodies of the disciples. The tendency of the Early Renaissance to discover new potential possibilities of the human body in the aspect of depiction is also typical for this painting. Drapery also plays a great role in the aspect of creating the composition; it distinguishes between the pupils through the use of the most important colors that were employed in such kinds of paintings.
There are two mains centers in the composition of the picture – earthly and heavenly. Primarily, they are distinguished by the line between the two parts, but there is also a certain difference between them that reflects the aspect of faith and notions related to death that were topical for the time of Early Renaissance. Primarily, the heavenly is distinguished by means of the pyramidal composition that was used for depicting the higher spiritual spheres. The figure of Jesus Christ is painted on the top of the pyramid, and it demonstrates His highest role in both the picture and the general spiritual structure that was topical for the epoch. The next difference is the figure of the Virgin. In the earthly part of the composition, she is depicted dead and prepared to funeral. In the upper heavenly part, she is already alive and ready to meet with her Son. Her soul is shown by means of the image of a little child in the earthly part of the picture that Jesus holds in his hands. At the same time, in heaven her soul is in her real image. In the earthly part, everybody is depicted equal, while in the heaven, there is a clear hierarchy, and the figure of the Virgin is the central one surrounded by the childish angels. The major mood for the heaven related to the assumption of the Virgin is joy. On the contrary, as for the earthly aspect, there is grief and sorrow related to her death that can be clearly seen by the figures of disciples that surrounded her coffin.
There is one more important aspect of the difference between the two compositions of the picture – the aspect of color. There are two main bright colors used in the painting that are symbolic of its meaning. These colors are blue and gold. At the same time, the blue color is not homogeneous in the picture; it varies from very pale to the very bright. Both colors were symbolic for the Early Renaissance epoch; they were related to sanctity and greatness of God. Gold color that can be seen in the picture was primarily associated with the light from the sky, sunlight, and blessing. Blue color has a more complicated meaning; the bright blue was related to divinity, while the pale one depicted and emphasized the purity. Bright blue color also has the role of emphasizing the figure of Jesus Christ in the dark louring sky in the picture. He can be seen as the only source of safety and sanctity due to the bright blue.
In conclusion, the picture depicted the main tendencies topical for the epoch of the Early Renaissance in Florence. While divine aspect was still present in each artwork and central for the art, artists got interested deeply in the human body, face, and features. Despite the clear distinguishing line between the earthly and heavenly in the pictures, the interest in a human being and admiration of human body can already be clearly seen in the picture of Fra Angelico.