1. The Announcement of Mary's Death


ur survey of art works centered on the Assumption begins with the legend that the Angel Gabriel was sent to tell Mary  that in three days she would die and be reunited with her Son in heaven.  Gabriel gives her a palm, symbol of her victory over sin and death.  It is to be carried before her coffin as her body is taken in procession to its grave.

Our first picture is from an English manuscript of the early 1170's, the so-called York Psalter, which contains not only the Book of Psalms but other prayers as well.  English Psalters at this time included a series of illustrated pages preceding the text.  Pictures dealing with Mary's death were a new theme, however, and that series is perhaps the most striking feature of the York Psalter.  The book is housed at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.


rom the early fourteenth century, we have several panels from the Majesta, created for the main altar of the Cathedral of Siena by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255-before 1319).  Done between 1308 and 1311, the seventy-five panels of its two sides depict chiefly incidents from the lives of Jesus and Mary.  The top tier of the front side contains six panels dealing with Mary's death.  Most of the work is now in the Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral at Siena.  Four panels have been lost, and eight are in other museums around the world.


rom later in the same century comes a sculptured work by Andrea Orcagna (ca. 1308-1368).  This is a panel from what is known as the Tabernacle in Orosanmichele, a church in the heart of downtown Florence.  The tabernacle, signed by Orcagna as completed in 1369, is a highly ornate marble shrine, like a small chapel, that houses an image of the Madonna and Child.  The panel seen here is found in the bottom tier of the tabernacle's east side.






he fourth illustration chosen for this incident is from the Book of Hours made by the artist Jean Fouquet (1420-1481) for Etienne Chevalier (1410-1474), court official and treasurer to King Charles VII.  Fouquet produced the book between 1453 and 1456.  The volume became will known in its day and served as a model for many other Books of Hours.  It has been said, in fact, that all miniature painting up to the time of Louis XII (1462-1515) was more or less dominated by Fouquet's art.  
     Sometime in the late seventeenth century, the Chevalier Hours was dismembered, its illuminations widely scattered.  Of the presumed sixty original pictures, only forty-seven are known to survive.  Forty were purchased by the Duc d'Anmale in 1891 and deposited in his chateau at Chantilly.  There they remain as the property of the Institut de France.


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