The Assumption of the Virgin

The Assumption of the Virgin, commissioned in 1516, is the first large scale work that Titian completed it in 1518 for the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. The color of this work is revolutionary and Titian used color to create meaning.

Within the whole panel there are three realms, “the earth-bound apostles, the soaring Madonna and accompanying angels, and the heavenly dominion of the welcoming God the Father.”[iii] Although there are these separate sections, Titian uses his application and choice of color to create a cohesive narrative. This was a new way of approaching this scene. The artist was representing two different moments on one panel and using color as an element tying the two together so it doesn’t become confusing to understand for the viewer.

One can see that there are not too many different colors but different tones of the same colors. The piece has a rosy and golden complexion that remains the same throughout the whole piece, even though in heaven, it is more greatly displayed. There are connections throughout all three realms with the same colors. The reds of the garments echo through out as do the blue hues, and the piece is “tuned to a full harmony” with these colors.[i]This element brings meaning to moment. These colors lead the viewers’ eyes to move up the painting, helping the Virgin along to her rightful throne.

Image Credit to ARTstor

She moves in a great sweeping movement, with fabric swirling around her brilliantly, only highlighted more by the same journey of colors. It is this application and “simplification of the coloring [that] enhances the impression of certainty, inevitability, and sanctity.”[ii]

Image Credit to ARTstor

Titian’s use of the competition of dark and light supports the impression and drama of this work, which Dolce writes is one of the “principal [parts] ofcolorito.”[vi] At the bottom of the panel the colors are darker so the apostles seem to emerge from the shadows and “stand out like silhouettes.”[vii] In Heaven, God is very dark in contrast to the golden burst of heaven that helps him stand out in a sweeping rush. In this work, Titian has used light to enhance his figures as well as enhance the meaning of the moment. The gold light lifts the Virgin upward. God is highlighted against the head of the putti. The light explodes behind of the body of God, who cuts through the painting in a diagonal movement, supported by his cape-like drapery that fades directly into the light.

Image credit to Dr. Marjorie Och

[i] Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, Trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, (New York: Oxford Press, 1998), 494.

[ii] Tietze, 19

[iii] Cole, 78.

[i] Tietze, 20.

[ii] Ibid, 20.

[iv] Tietze, 20.

[v] Ibid, 20.

[vi] Hills, 220.

[vii] Tietze, 20.

[viii] Tietze, 20.


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