Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Death of the Virgin

Giovan Pietro Birago (circa 1450 - 1513)
The Death of the Virgin circa 1490
Folio 272r of The Sforza Hours
Tempera & gold on parchment, 13.3 cm high x 10 cm wide
The British Library, London

Christian art has given varied expression to belief in Mary's Assumption

1. The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and announces that in three days she will die
2. All the Apostles arrive to bid their farewell
3. Mary dies
4. The Apostles bear Mary's body to her grave.
5. On the third day, her body is taken from the tomb by angels who carry it to heaven.
6. Mary is crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Events 1, 2, and 4 derive from the Transitus Mariae, a work of the fourth century.

The Sforza Hours was painted in two stages: the first around 1490 for Bona Sforza, widow of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, by Giovan Pietro Birago (circa 1450 - 1513).

Birago was prolific artist whose activity is known from 1471 when he illuminated the choirbooks for the cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore de Dom in Brescia and continued through prestigious commissions

Birago also left behind a letter complaining that, as he was completing The Sforza Hours, one Johanne Jacopo, a friar from the Convent of San Marco in Milan, stole 28 of the illuminated pages, including all 12 of the drawings depicting the months of the year. The villain, Birago noted, visited his studio several times to gain his trust before stealing his work while he was out.

Birago was paid 500 ducats

Birago, was the most famous artist in the princely state of Milan, and was more highly regarded and paid than his contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci.