Simone de Wobrek
The Dormition

16th century
Oil on panel, 98.4 x 84.7 in. (250 x 215 cm.)
Provenance: Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Palermo
Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo, Sicily

This Dormition is unusual in several ways. It is not Christ but a team of angels that carries Mary's soul to Heaven, where the Father welcomes her. This variation may have been inspired by The Book of John Concering the Falling Asleep of Mary, which says that as she fell asleep "all gave glory to God; and the Lord stretched forth His undefiled hands, and received her holy and blameless soul." Its blamelessness is indicated by the white vestment, which recalls the albs given to the newly baptized as a symbol of the remission of their sins.

The Jew from the apocryphal stories kneels before the bier, his hands apparently restored to him as a consequence of his repentance. Beside him is a large brazier with a "boat" for the incense that is scattered onto the coals; traditionally in Dormitions, the coals are in a censer that one of the apostles swings about.

Behind the bier, St. Peter (in white) sprinkles the body with holy water, using the aspergillum in his right hand and the aspersory The shallow vessel that holds the holy water that is to be sprinkled by the aspergillum in his left. The only other reference to a service for the dead is the book on Mary's lap; in earlier works a book will be in the hands of one of the apostles, who reads from it the prayers for the dead.

Eleven apostles are in the main register of the painting. Framed in the middle right, St. Thomas receives Mary's belt not from herself as the legend has it but from an angel who is utterly naked — perhaps the most unusual feature of all.

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Photographed at the Galleria by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.