The unusual format of this painting, which consists of a large central panel surmounted by two roundels, was perhaps specified by Lucas Rem, a wealthy Augsburg merchant whose coat of arms appears at the lower right. Rem probably requested the subject as well, since the Assumption of the Virgin was rarely depicted in Flemish painting of the period. Joachim Patinir has illustrated the moment after the Apostles have discovered the Virgin's empty tomb, unaware that she has risen to heaven. Only Thomas, the dark-bearded Apostle to the left, knew of her Assumption, since she had dropped her belt to him as she rose. In Patinir's painting, Thomas rushes up to the other Apostles, Mary's belt and rosary in hand, to share the good news. The vast and beautifully painted panoramic countryside within which the events occur was the hallmark of Patinir's fame, and also heralded the shift toward Mannerist inversion of subject matter in sixteenth-century Antwerp, as narrative events were reduced in scale in relation to the surrounding landscape. Katherine Crawford Luber, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 168.
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