This fragile painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary depicts a beautiful and valuable representation of the Virgin Mary offering her sacred belt to the apostle, Thomas. The iconography in this painting was very well known in Tuscany at the end of the thirteenth century and refers to a story found in the apocryphal gospel of St. Thomas. The incredulous apostle Thomas arrives from India at the sepulchre of the Virgin Mary and finds it inexplicably empty. After, Thomas has a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, Mary appears to him offering her cincture as a symbol of the miracle of her perpetual virginity and thus, assumption into heaven. The relic of the cincture of Saint Mary was found in Jerusalem before the Second Crusade and has been kept in the Chapel of the Dome since 1141 in Prato, Tuscany.
In this Assumption of the Virgin, the landscape in the background illustrates hills and mountains leading into the horizon. At the bottom of the composition, lies the sarcophagus from where the Virgin is prodigiously taken to Heaven by the Angels. Surrounding her are St. Rocco, patron of pilgrims and plague-stricken persons, and an unidentified female martyr at her side. Both of these saints are painted in a frontal position to illustrate a sacred conversation among them. St. Bartholomew, patron of tanners and butchers, is also present. What little we can read of the style indicates a strong influence of the fifteenth century, but the face shapes and decoration on the façade of the sarcophagus, is evidence that this likely dates from the early sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the seriously damaged state of the painting does not allow a more detailed reading of the style and subjects.
State of Preservation
Currently, this painting is extremely fragile. The back of the panel is composed of several horizontal boards and crossbars. Unfortunately, the crossbars prevent natural movement of the wood and have caused several cracks and fissures on the painted surface. The entire pictorial surface is damaged and the colors are faded, thus it is extremely difficult to get a clear view of the painted subjects. The extension of these lacunae required the application of a temporary Japanese paper cover.