KOERBECKE, Johann
(b. ca. 1420, Oelsfeld, d. 1490, Münster)

Assumption of the Virgin

before 1457
Oil on panel, 93 x 64 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

A notable feature of the painting is its division, both physical and stylistic, into two distinct parts: the lower sphere representing the earth and the upper sphere of the heavenly kingdom. In the lower part, the artist has represented the Apostles grouped around the Virgin's empty tomb. The impulse towards realism is evident in the way in which the artist has attempted to individualize the expressions and poses of each figure, as they show their surprise and awe at the miracle. He also organizes the group around the tomb into a more or less coherent spatial arrangement. The tomb, with its plain classical decoration, and in particular the lid which has fallen into the foreground space, give the scene a sensation of depth and realism, which contains otherwise little to indicate its setting: only a patch of green in the background represents what might be the side of a mountain.