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Ordo Fratrum Minorum

The Glorious Queen of the Heaven and Earth: The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian

The Glorious Queen of the Heaven and Earth: The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian


The feast of the Assumption of Mary, celebrated on August 15, is here to tell us that there is one human being who already is fully and completely redeemed, saved body and soul. That person is Mary, the mother of Jesus. As it expressed in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium on the Church: “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death.” The bodily glorification of Mary is the anticipation of the glorification that is the destiny of all. We can now look at Mary in glory and say: “That’s how we will be one day.”

One of the works of art that expresses most beautifully the glory of the Queen of Heaven and Earth is probably that of the painter Titian. In 1516, the Director of the Franciscan Friary of Venice, approached this painter. He commissioned an “Assumption of the Virgin” for the high altar of the Franciscan church Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It must be remembered here that the Franciscans were always keen promoters of the Assumption of the Virgin and the other aspects of Marian theology, especially the related doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. “On the day of the Assumption, writes St. Anthony of Padua, Jesus crowned his mother with the diadem of the heavenly glory, as her mother crowned him with the diadem of her flesh on the day of the wedding of the Word with humanity.”

“The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian, in the words of Félix Mendelssohn, is the most divine work that human hand has ever done … We must see how Mary seems to float in the clouds, how the air she breathes seems real, her fear, her devotion, in short thousands of mixed feelings… On the right side of the painting, the heads of the three angels are the height of beauty: a pure, serene and seraphic beauty.”

The focal point of this huge painting of the Assumption of the Virgin is, of course, Mary herself, the true purpose of the work. In the upper central area, she stands on the clouds, wrapped in a red dress and a blue coat who are writhing around her as if she was supported by the breath of the wind in her ascent to heaven. But we could say with even greater precision that the central point of the painting is the admirable figure of the Assunta: the one that is elevated. On the face of the Virgin converges all the action of the composition, to brought full light in the center of the painting. This Assunta attracts everything in her movement to the Eternal Father, who is preparing to welcome her with open arms. To the right of Him, an angelo carries in his hand a green crown, symbol of the earth, while to the left, another Angel supports a gold crown, symbol of heaven: Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth.

This face of Mary also attracts the Apostles who are at the bottom of the painting. They are surprised and amazed by the wonderful event. St. Peter is kneeling with his hand on his chest, St. Thomas points the Virgin, Saint Thomas and Saint Andrew, dressed in red capes, project themselves forward.

Mary entered the glory of God;

Exult, in heaven, all the angels! Alleluia.