The Tomb Full of Flowers

Happy feast day! Today, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary, which is also a holy day of obligation!

I’ve always loved Giaquinto’s depictions of Heaven, because he has such a beautiful way of depicting Heaven. So, here is Giaquinto’s artwork depicting the Assumption, in which Heaven opens up to receive our Blessed Mother!

Assumption of the Virgin, by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1740s. Private collection. Via
Assumption of the Virgin, by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1740s. Private collection.

While Giaquinto certainly did a beautiful job expressing the magnificence of the scene, this is actually a pretty generic depiction of the Assumption in Western Christianity! The twelve disciples gather around the tomb or sarcophagus of the Mary and look in, astonished to see that her body is not there. Instead, there is only flowers. Then they look overhead to see her ascending into Heaven.

The appearance of the tomb in this artwork is a bit of a shocker though! There are many Catholic circles that believe that Mary didn’t die at all and instead was directly assumed into Heaven via a miracle. Other circles say that she actually died a good death, but then was assumed to Heaven, body and soul.

Looking at traditional religious art about the Assumption, artists tend to take a middle road between the miraculous and the gritty.

First of all, there are many pictures of the “Dormition of the Virgin” which indicate that she fell asleep right before the Assumption, and thus she did not die. But there are also pictures depicting called “Death of the Virgin” which also take place just before the Assumption, which indicate there was a potential for death. And often, those pictures are very similar to each other, with both directly before the Assumption! So, there isn’t any real consensus within the artistic tradition with which one actually happened.

So, with Assumption pictures, you’ll often see a tomb,¬†with the implication that our Blessed Mother was either supposed to lay in it or actually was laid into the tomb. It’s a bit open-ended and the artist leaves it to you to guess whether she was supposed to lay in it, but before she could she was assumed into Heaven… or, she actually did lay in it and then was assumed into Heaven.

Either way, many artists fill the tomb with flowers to indicate the miraculous and special nature of her assumption. Because, let’s face it: miracles do happen!

And besides, why wouldn’t Jesus move Heaven and Earth so He could be with His mother?

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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