1708-1776 | Flemish
The Assumption of the Virgin
Signed "B. Beschey" (lower left)
Oil on panel
Flemish painter Balthasar Beschey composed this vibrantly hued oil on panel that glorifies the Assumption of Mary into heaven. It very closely resembles and is almost certainly based upon Peter Paul Rubens' The Assumption of the Virgin, which he painted in the mid-1620s for the high altarpiece for Antwerp’s Cathedral of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe. One of the most important religious commissions of Rubens' career, it would have been well known to Beschey, who followed the work of Rubens and other Old Masters such as Anthony van Dyck and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Beschey beautifully interprets Rubens' original in the present work, which is rendered with a vivid palette and high degree of technical skill.
The work details the moment when Mary's body is being taken into heaven, soaring upward with the help of a choir of heavenly angels. Two of the putti extend a floral wreath towards her head, a nod to her role as the “Queen of Heaven.” Her open stone tomb is depicted below her, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. Some stare in disbelief into the now-empty tomb, while others raise their eyes upwards to witness the miraculous event. Three women, presumably Mary Magdalene and Mary's two sisters, are also present, as is Saint John the Evangelist, who reaches upward with outstretched arms. Overall, it is a stunning work of art, evoking one of the most famous religious works in the whole of art history.
Born in Antwerp in 1708, Balthasar Beschey came of age in an artistic household. He had four brothers, all of whom became painters. Beschey studied under the artist Pieter Strick, from whom he learned the Flemish Baroque style that would define his output throughout his career. Though he primarily composed landscapes early in his life, he would later turn to mythological and religious scenes such as the present work.
In addition to his work as a painter, he also operated an art restoration workshop and gallery in Antwerp, earning a significant living exporting Flemish paintings to England, where one of his brothers had settled. He became a master in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1752. Today, his works can be found in important collection around the world, including the Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg), the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Antwerp) and the Musée du Louvre (Paris).
Panel: 30 1/2" high x 19 7/8" wide
Frame: 38 1/4" high x 28" wide