According to a popular tradition that evolved outside the canonical New Testament, the Virgin Mary entered a three-day sleep before her corporal and spiritual transition to heaven. This is called the Dormition. The lower register of this painting represents the body of Mary in its state of rest, surrounded by Jesus’ apostles. In the upper register, her soul has been reunited with Christ in paradise.
This panel is the work of Riccardo Quartararo, the leading painter in Sicily’s capital Palermo during the late fifteenth century. Quartarao was active in Naples twice, from 1485–89 and from 1491–94. He executed this painting during the latter period for the Franciscan church of Santa Maria la Nova. It eventually passed to a provincial church in Torre Annunziata during the eighteenth century.