Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 25 items Explore
  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 89 items
  • 3,453 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 42 items
  • 11,033 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 8,512 items Explore
  • 5,051 items Explore
  • 72 items Explore
  • 137 items Explore
  • 10,626 items Explore
  • 13,625 items Explore
  • 4,621 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 150 items Explore
  • 2,021 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,761 items Explore
  • 24 items Explore
  • 440 items Explore
  • 19,197 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,903 items Explore
  • 1,112 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 4,707 items Explore
  • 456 items Explore
  • 29 items
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 8 items
  • 19,189 items Explore
  • 788 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 800 items
  • 25 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 145 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,021 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 788 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 7 items
  • 27,304 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,836 items Explore
  • 1,529 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 9,696 items Explore
  • 9,686 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 4 items
  • 39 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 5,146 items Explore
  • 6,103 items Explore
  • 4,204 items Explore
  • 1,513 items Explore
  • 929 items Explore
  • 3,493 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 312 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,418 items Explore
  • 20 items Explore
  • 354 items Explore
  • 797 items Explore
  • 1,131 items Explore
  • 510 items Explore
  • 917 items Explore
  • 1,138 items
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,953 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 7 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 27 items
  • 61 items
  • 300 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,923 items Explore
  • 1,567 items Explore
  • 82 items
  • 43 items
  • 19,437 items Explore
  • 1,217 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 1,484 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 1 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 252 items
  • 314 items
  • 846 items Explore
  • 1,897 items
  • 350 items Explore
  • 2,426 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 6 items
  • 3 items
  • 3 items
  • 4,390 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 34,052 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,295 items Explore
  • 274 items Explore
  • 8,069 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 724 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 52 items
  • 21,673 items Explore
  • 916 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,104 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,328 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,051 items Explore
  • 59 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,293 items Explore
  • 174 items
  • 453 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 295 items
  • 736 items
  • 878 items
  • 1 items
  • 369 items Explore
  • 273 items Explore
  • 11,395 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,036 items Explore
  • 10 items
  • 6,978 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 5,325 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,732 items Explore
  • 9,200 items Explore
  • 7,706 items Explore
  • 201 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 994 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 4,233 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 224 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,494 items Explore
  • 20 items
  • 696 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 4,273 items Explore
  • 13,478 items Explore
  • 3,024 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 9,312 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,324 items Explore
  • 131 items
  • 38 items
  • 13,160 items Explore
  • 3,316 items Explore
  • 2,142 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 44 items
  • 41,232 items Explore
  • 637 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 23,284 items Explore
  • 218 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 20 items
  • 30 items
  • 254 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 13,118 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,261 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 4,541 items Explore
  • 918 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 15 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 220 items
  • 702 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,284 items Explore
  • 1,661 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,918 items Explore
  • 151 items
  • 84 items
  • 772 items Explore
  • 3,234 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 20 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,646 items Explore
  • 22,881 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,374 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,058 items Explore
  • 3,570 items Explore
  • 2,646 items Explore
  • 4,773 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 45 items
  • 1 items
  • 6,898 items Explore
  • 4,792 items Explore
  • 271 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,688 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1,866 items Explore
  • 60 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 448 items Explore
  • 6,022 items Explore
  • 8,810 items Explore
  • 1,849 items Explore
  • 5,814 items Explore
  • 3,338 items Explore
  • 11,068 items Explore
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,639 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 5 items
  • 1 items
  • 2,661 items Explore
  • 620 items Explore
  • 62 items
  • 17 items
  • 151 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 464 items
  • 996 items
  • 3,604 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 9,406 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,700 items Explore
  • 1,165 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,562 items Explore
  • 1,006 items Explore
  • 1,926 items
  • 6,041 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,945 items Explore
  • 1,417 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 9,585 items Explore
  • 16,255 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,670 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 58 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 8,787 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 1 items
  • 59 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,380 items Explore
  • 402 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 4 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 480 items
  • 181 items Explore
  • 8,382 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 23,755 items Explore
  • 7,350 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 4,222 items Explore
  • 465 items
  • 326 items Explore
  • 12,686 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 315 items Explore
  • 451 items
  • 184 items
  • 3,697 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,228 items Explore
  • 2,494 items Explore
  • 732 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,148 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 71,469 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,845 items Explore
  • 28 items
  • 3,622 items Explore
  • 1,831 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,167 items Explore
  • 5,504 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 633 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 465 items
  • 39 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 335 items
  • 3 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,175 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 17 items
  • 10,850 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,566 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 217 items
  • 16,809 items Explore
  • 78 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 10 items
  • 6 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 628 items Explore
  • 1,594 items Explore
  • 1,034 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

The Dormition of the Virgin

Pieter Bruegel the elder ( [Breda c.1525 -30?] - Brussels 1569)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1564

Materials

Oil on panel (oak)

Measurements

677 x 853 x 126 mm

Place of origin

Netherlands

Order this image

Collection

Upton House, Warwickshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 446749

Caption

In her final moments, the Virgin is shown receiving a lighted taper from a figure wearing a chasuble – probably Saint Peter. Mary Magdalene smoothes her pillows, whilst a man, who may be Saint John sleeps in a chair near the fire. The crucifix propped up on a pillow at the end of the bed must have been an extraordinarily harrowing devotional aid at the Virgin’s own hour of death, but would, at the same time, have brought the promise of Salvation. In earlier versions of this subject, the mourners had always been limited to the apostolic number of twelve. The subject has been developed by Bruegel, and turned into a natural, or domestic event, to which numerous men and women are admitted. The picture once belonged to the famous geographer, Abraham Ortelius (1527-98). It was owned later by Rubens and is, in all probability, the Bruegel listed in the inventory taken after Rubens's death in 1641.

Summary

Oil painting on oak panel (grisaille), The Dormition of the Virgin by Pieter Bruegel the elder (Bruegel 1528 - Brussels 1569), signed, extremely small, and painted in brown pigment, located lower right corner of the chest in front of the Virgin’s bed: BRVEGEL. The interior of a room at night. The Virgin sits up in bed and receives a lighted taper from (?) Saint Peter, who stands right, wearing a chasuble, amongst a group of kneeling Disciples; possibly the Magdalene, opposite, smoothes her pillows; many other figures crowd towards the bed from the left side of the room and from the door in the background; in the foreground a man who may be Saint John sleeps in a chair near the fire; at the foot of the bed, where a crucifix is laid upon a pillow, a kneeling monk rings the passing bell, and in the centre foreground a bench, chair and round table are covered with an assortment of plates and cups. The room is unevenly lit from four sources; the fire, the torches placed high up on a carved wooded frieze between the bed and the door, a candle on the table and the taper held by Saint Peter.

Full description

Glück (Burlington Magazine) describes the iconographic novelty of the composition: whereas previously the mourners had always been limited to the apostolic number of twelve – with St Peter handing the Virgin a candle and the addition of Mary Magdalen plumping the Virgin’s pillows - the subject is now treated by Bruegel as a natural event, to which numerous men an women are admitted (see the verses accompanying engraving). Grossman (1952) refers to the death of the Virgin as a phenomenon in which all the righteous take part. He expands this (1955), mentioning as the source of the composition the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voraigne. In the account given in an apocryphal book of St. John the Evangelist, Christ with the patriarchs, martyrs, confessors and holy virgins are described as being present at the death of the Virgin, where the Apostles are already assembled, thus conflating the death of the Virgin with Assumption. Grossmann suggests that St. John is shown experiencing a vision and isolated as the recorder of the miracle. This interpretation does make sense, but Bruegel does not appear to be influenced by the supernatural features of this part of the story, and his interpretation of the scene is factual enough for it to be questioned whether he had this special mystical significance in mind. It may therefore be, as Glück suggested, that Bruegel is depicting the scene straightforwardly and the St. John, having fallen asleep in exhaustion at the critical moment, is a poignant motif added by the artist. The throng to the left of the deathbed are possibly supplicants asking for succour, rather than the heavenly throng of patriarchs and martyrs as proposed by Grossmann. A figure behind St Peter is depicted holding the crux immissa (with two horizontal rods), representative of either St Philip – who is least likely to have been singled out – or St James the Less, the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, who in some sources is described as Christ’s brother. The crucifix propped up on a pillow at the end of the bed, has escaped comment by most commentators, and whilst it must have been an extraordinarily harrowing devotional aid at the Virgin’s own hour of death, it would, at the same time, have brought the promise of Salvation. Neither Tolnay nor Michel regard the picture as autograph. The former believes the handling to be uncharacteristic, and is troubled by the error of perspective in the chair, which has been corrected in the engraving (see Grossmann, Burlington Magazine, p.223, n.16, for a refutation of this point). According to Michel, the treatment of the light indicates that the picture may be a later copy. Muller also concedes that it is possible that Rubens owned a lost original of which the Upton House picture is a copy. The NG technical report notes that only a limited amount of underdrawing was revealed by infrared reflectography. It appears to have been applied with brushes and there are several interesting changes: the woman plumping the Virgin’s pillow was drawn to our right of the painted figure and her right arm was drawn and reserved lower; the cat’s rump was drawn and reserved slightly to the right of the painted animal; in the curtain behind the Virgin, underdrawn lines may perhaps show Bruegel conceiving a smaller bed seen in a different perspective; and the bed curtains behind St Peter were evidently painted in slightly different positions and were differently lit. Tolnay writes that the inspiration for the composition is derived from a miniature, La Mort, in the Grimani Breviary, painted by Simon Bening and his workshop between 1505 and 1510 (repd. by Tolnay, pl. 153 and Gibson, pl.94). Schongauer’s influential engraving of the Death of the Virgin (Lehrs, Geschichte und Kritische Katalog, 1925, vol.V, no.16) may also have proved a source for the group of Apostles around the bed. Grisailles are extremely rare amongst Bruegel’s oeuvre, although another, of Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, can be found in the Princes Gate Collection at the Courtauld Institute (see their 1981 catalogue, no.9, pp.7-8).

Provenance

Abraham Ortelius (1527-98),1590; Isabella Brant (1591-1626), first wife of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, 1641; Jean-Baptiste Anthoine, Antwerp, 1691; Robert Langton Douglas (1864-1951), circa 1930; Lord Lee of Fareham (1868-1947), 1930, from whom it was acquired by Lord Bearsted the same year; given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948), in 1948, shortly before his death

Credit line

Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)

Marks and inscriptions

Verso: written in ink: ouden (?) B[r]eugh[e]l followed by a series of illegible marks (numbers?)

Makers and roles

Pieter Bruegel the elder ( [Breda c.1525 -30?] - Brussels 1569) , artist

Exhibition history

Bruegel in Black and White: Three Grisailles Reunited, The Courtauld Institute, London, 2016, no.1 New Light on Old Masters, Squash Court Gallery, 2013

References

Constable 1930 W.G. Constable, ‘Northern Painting in the Lee Collection’, International Studio, March 1930, pp.41, repd., 43 Glück 1930 G. Glück, ‘A newly-discovered Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder’, Burlington Magazine, LVI, 1930, pp.284-86, repd.; Popham 1931 A.E. Popham, ‘Pieter Brueghel and Abraham Ortelius’, Burlington Magazine, LIX, 1931, pp.184-8 Michel 1931 E. Michel, Brueghel, Paris, 1931, pp.85-86, pl.58 Glück, 1932 G. Glück, Brueghel’s Gemälde, Vienna, 1932, p.62, no.16 repd. Tolnay 1935 C. de Tolnay, Pierre Brueghel L’Ancien, Brussels, 1935, pp.51-2, 92, no.38, pl.148 Friedländer 1937 Max J. Friedländer, Die altniederländische malerei, 14 vols., Berlin and Leiden, 1924-37 (Early Netherlandish Painting, 1967-76), vol. XIV, pp.29, 60, no.23, pl. XXIII; Grossmann 1952 F. Grossmann, ‘Brueghel’s Woman taken in Adultery and other Grisailles’, Burlington Magazine, XCIV, 1952, pp.221 ff. (passim), repd., p.227, no.6; Bruegel in Black and White: Three Grisailles Reunited (Ed. Karen Serres), The Courtauld Gallery, London, 4th February to 8th May 2016, Cat. 1, pp. 18

View more details