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Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Town Hall, “Vittore Crivelli” Civic Art Gallery - Girolamo Dente, known as Girolamo di Tiziano, Assumption of the Virgin


Thanks to the coat of arms and to the inscription on the sarcophagus painted in the foreground we can identify the clients, the name of the painter and the year in which the altarpiece was painted. The noble sign is that of the Gherardini family of Sant’Elpidio a Mare, who evidently commissioned this painting on canvas. The inscriptions, identified by Luigi Serra in 1936, date the work to 1564 and attribute it to Girolamo Dente, also known as Girolamo di Tiziano. The artist, who was born in Ceneda, worked mainly in the Veneto region, whilst in the territory of the Marche unfortunately there is not much evidence of his work. Perhaps, as various scholars suggest, the clients, not caring about his lack of fame in the local area, were persuaded by the eminent altarpiece commissioned by the Antiqui family of Ancona to Girolamo Dente for Saint Francis' Church (San Francesco ad Alto). The work in Sant’Elpidio which tends to verticalisation, seems to lead the eye of the observer frenetically towards the Assumption of the Virgin into Heaven. Indeed, the gaze and the arms of the twelve apostles extended upwards, between amazement and pure adoration, push the observer to look towards the reason for so much frenzy. Surrounded by a luminous halo and by a band of celebrating angels, the Madonna with her arms stretching upwards is welcomed to Paradise as is declaimed in a passage of Saint John of Damascus: “It was appropriate that she who in childbirth had conserved her virginity whole kept her body safe from corruption after her death. It was appropriate that she who bore in her womb the Creator made flesh was to live in the divine dwelling. (…) It was appropriate for the Mother of God to possess everything due to her owing to her Son and for her to be honoured by all creatures as Mother and slave of God”. The altarpiece is divided into two overlapping parts. The lower panel is crowded and animated by dynamism typical of the “modern manner”, while the Ascension of the Madonna to the Celestial Home depicted in the upper section seems to be dominated by a statuary monumentality. Observing the canvas, moreover, particular curiosity is roused by the only two characters who are not looking upwards. One is leaning on the sarcophagus and seems to be looking downwards, in the direction of the noble coat of arms. Perhaps this is to draw attention to the family that commissioned the work. The other is at the far right and has his face turned towards the observer. While some people consider him a self-portrait of the master Girolamo Dente, others think that the man is simply the member of the Gherardini family who asked the Ceneda-born artist to paint the work.