Painting Explorers: The Assumption of the Virgin

Light from the heavens!

This is a painting called The Assumption of the Virgin that was painted in 1475 by Francesco Botticini. It was on the wall in a burial chapel in S. Pier Maggiore, Florence, Italy. The man kneeling down on the left is Matteo Palmieri, who’s a civil servant. You can see his widow, Niccolosa, opposite him. But you’ll notice she looks a nun! This is to make her look very religious and gives us a hint that she’ll never marry again. Behind Matteo, you can see Florence and Fiesole and his farm. Behind Niccolosa, you can see there are farms in the Val d’Elsa hills which all belonged to her family.

Now have a look at the angels above. There are lots of them! They’re all looking at the tomb of the Virgin Mary, filled with white lilies above christ, who receives her into the highest circles of heaven. There are three levels of angels you can see here, the highest are the Councillors (Seraphim, Cherubin and Thrones), in the middle are the Governors (Dominions, Virtues and Powers), then the ministers (Principalities, Archangels and Angels).

Let’s hear from one of the angels at the back:

I’m the least important angel
So I’m in the back row
When you’re up in heaven
That is just the way things go

All the other angels
Are sat in front of me
There’s something special going on
But I can’t see

If I work hard at angel school
And sing well in the choir
Gradually my wings will grow
And I’ll go higher and higher

I’m an ordinary angel
The Archangels outrank me
They all want a promotion
To a Principality

Dominions, Virtues, Powers next
And one of them I ain’t
They way they act so snooty
Try the patience of a saint

I’d love to be a Seraphim
Do anything to swap
With the Cherubim and Thrones they sing
Floating at the top

But I’m the least important angel
In this holy hierarchy
There’s something special going on
But I can’t see

Can you paint light?

There are loads of different types of light, but can you paint the sunlight like in this painting?

Have a think about how you can tell the sun is hitting clouds in the sky. Does it turn the clouds a different colour? Does it show up the different textures? See if you can paint the sun bursting through the clouds!

Have a go at painting a landcape too!

Once you’ve created your sky, can you paint the sunlight hitting some hills and trees?

Draw a different type of light!

Can you draw a vase in candlelight? How is it different? Try painting on a black background and picking out the light!

Click on a painting below to explore more!

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 NG_logo_blackPainting Explorers in association with The National Gallery