The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Inspired Through Art — The Assumption, 1428, by Masolino

Authored by Linus Meldrum in Issue #10.2 of Catechetical Review

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a beautiful dogma of the Church that conveys to the faithful the importance of the Blessed Mother. In 1950, the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God) was promulgated by Pope Pius XII. It declared that Mary was assumed into heaven—body and soul—at the end of her earthly life. Many traditions gathered from ancient sources tell us of Mary’s life after the scriptural conclusion of the apostolic age. The whole Church, in both in history and in contemporary times, has perceived the bookends of Mary’s life to be remarkable—a woman born without sin would also be free of the earthly demands of conventional human death. Supported by the patriarchs, the prophets, her Magnificat, the Marian visionaries, bishops, clergy, the lay faithful, and especially her relationship to her Son, Pius XII was moved to establish this dogma to help us know the fullness of Mary ever better.

But how can an artist depict something as mysterious and glorious as an event like this? As in images depicting many other glorious parts of the narrative of salvation, an artist is called to stretch the imagination, to conceive of a design that amplifies our meditation instead of bringing it “down to earth.” Certainly, composing a simple, factual scene of a woman flying into the sky would be insufficient. The Assumption by Masolino is an image that does more than show a literal historical event. It is painted in the International Gothic style—a post-Medieval, pre-Renaissance mix of realism and imaginative idealism. In art, realism depicts what the neutral eye naturally sees, whereas idealism is a vision of what the mind would like to see based on invisible ideas, usually something better than what we find when looking at the world. Realism and idealism are found throughout the history of art in both secular and religious images. Artists who create sacred art often use forms that are “more than real” in order to convey the mysteries of our faith. Masolino is one of those artists.

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting [email protected]

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