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Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci and Coronation of the Virgin by Guilio Romano both depict the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven with her body and soul. The two painters portray this Catholic subject through the influence of the period in which they were completed: Carracci in the 17th century Baroque Period and Romano, an assistant to Raphael, in the 16th century Italian Renaissance. The two paintings are very similar in their elements, but are unalike in style and composition.
Carracci’s Assumption of the Virgin was painted from 1600-1601 with oil on wood, and is the altarpiece for the Cerasi Chapel in the Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. This piece depicts the Madonna being lifted from her tomb by cherubs, surrounded by the disciples of Christ. She holds beneath her arm a naked woman who could represent Eve. Mary’s head is in the very top and middle of the frame.
Her empty tomb is below her in the center and in bottom third of the frame. The apostle Peter is seen in blue and gold.
Romano’s Coronation of the Virgin was painted with oil on wood from 1505-1525 and is displayed in the Pinacoteca of the Vatican Museums. In the scene, a cloud that rests above the middle of the painting divides heaven and earth. Below, the disciples gaze in wonder either into the sky or into her open tomb. The tomb, which lies at the center of the frame and angles towards a vanishing point in the distance, is filled with flowers.
Peter is again on the left of the tomb in blue and gold. Above the cloud, Mary sits enthroned in heaven as Christ crowns her. Cherubs kneel in worship on either side of her. Jesus and Mary, wearing the blue of humanity, sit in the center and top of the frame. Shadows can be seen beneath the figures in this work.
Renaissance painting is characterized by linear perspective, the use of landscapes, contrasting light, modeling, shadows, realistic figures, and complex composition. Coronation of the Virgin includes all of the above. The Baroque period was influenced by the Counter-Reformation in the church and also uses light, shadow, realism, and landscapes. The stylistic differences between the works can be seen in their compositions and in the perspective taken for each. Romano’s painting is a great example of linear perspective and complex composition. Carracci’s too is complex and invites the faithful into the scene; the modeling in the garments and faces of the figures adds to the realism in the painting.
The Humanistic influence of the 16th century can be seen in the realism of each character in Romano’s work. It is also evident in the use of blue for Mary and Jesus, perfect creatures, and Peter, a flawed one. Though both paintings include many similar elements, Mary is in the midst of her Assumption in Carracci’s version while she is in the midst of the Coronation in Romano’s. It seems as though Carracci wanted to emphasize the awe of her ‘resurrection’ at the end of her dormition, whereas Romano and Raphael were interested in Mary’s royalty and life in heaven. It seems the Counter-Reformation theme shows in Carracci’s use of the glory of Mary rising and her role as the ‘New Eve.’
In conclusion, Romano’s and Carracci’s ‘Assumptions’ both fulfill their religious purpose to remind Christians of the glory of a holy life. The similarities and differences between the two can be contributed to their catholic subject matter and their period influences.
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