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Death of the Virgin

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Diependale, Hendrik van (glazier)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear and coloured glass with painted details and silver stain

  • Credit Line:

    Given by E.E. Cook Esquire.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case S2

This panel is probably from the great cloister of the Charterhouse in Louvain. This was founded at the end of the 15th century by the Dukes of Burgundy and was financed with donations from members of the ducal family, as well as from clerics of the surrounding areas and local residents. A charterhouse is the name given to a monastery of the Carthusian order.

Very little of the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is recorded in the New Testament. Many of the stories relating to her come from writings called the ‘Apocryphal Gospels’. These were composed during the first few centuries in the Christian church, often by church leaders, but they do not have the authority of the canonical Gospels of the New Testament. They were intended to satisfy a demand among early Christians for more information on the life of Jesus and his family.

The story of the death of Mary comes from the so-called Gospel of St John the Evangelist. According to this account, an angel appeared to Mary to announce her impending death. She was told that she would soon be with her son Jesus in heaven. Mary asked that the Apostles might be brought to her so that she could be with them one last time. Angels gathered the Twelve Apostles from around the world and miraculously transported them to her bedside.

Traditionally, Peter is depicted as the chief priest and performs the Sacrament of Extreme Unction (the last rites).

Physical description

In the centre of a large room, a woman in a white gown lies in a poster-bed which is covered with a thick red bedspread. Surrounding the bed are twelve men of all ages. One elderly man kneels in prayer at the foot of the bed and another, younger man, kneels on the left side of the bed reading a book. Also on the left side of the bed (in the foreground) is an elderly man sitting on the floor reading a book. On the right side of the bed, close to the woman's head, two men in clerical dress perform the last rites - one reading from a text and the other holding a candle. Near them a man in a green robe holds a holy water bucket and sprinkler to assist in the performance of the last rites. There is an open window in the background composed of two lights filled with diamond-shaped quarries and two inset silver-stained roundels. The images on the roundels are not clear.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)


ca. 1520 (made)


Diependale, Hendrik van (glazier)

Materials and Techniques

Clear and coloured glass with painted details and silver stain


Height: 68.3 cm, Width: 48.5 cm, Weight: 2.90 kg

Object history note

Probably from a typological series on the north side of the Great Cloister of the Charterhouse of Louvain.

Historical context note

The Charterhouse in Louvain was a monastery of the Carthusian Order founded at the end of the 15th century by the Dukes of Burgundy. It was financed with donations from the ducal family members as well as from clerics of the surrounding areas and local residents.

Records indicate that the cloister glazing was paid for by members of the Gillis family from Louvain. The glazier was Hendrik van Diependale and his son Jan. The work probably began early in the 16th century and carried on to the middle of the century.

A 19th century drawing of the cloister windows indicates that there were 80 windows of two lights each, surmounted by a single quatrefoil-shaped panel. The composition of each window seems to be three prophet panels surmounting four narrative panels. If this is correct, then there would originally have been 210 prophet panels and 320 narrative panels in the cloister glazing.

The theme of the cloister glazing centred on the Fall and Redemption of Mankind through the life and death of Christ. There would have been scenes from the New Testament paired with their Old Testament prefigurements. Panels depicting saints and donors would have accompanied these scenes, probably occupying the lowest registers of the windows. Additionally, prophets announcing these events would have been included in the upper portions of the windows.

Descriptive line

Painted and stained glass panel depicting the Death of the Virgin. Made in the Netherlands about 1520 and probably from the Charterhouse at Louvain.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
Jessie McNab, A Guide To Flemish Renaissance Stained Glass From The Great Cloister Of The Carthusian Monastery In Louvain Belgium With Illustrations, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Belgium, 1982
M.R. James, ed. & trans., The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend. Readings on the Saints, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols., Princeton UP, 1993

Production Note

Made in Brabant. Probably from the Charterhouse of Louvain.




Pot metal; Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Alb; Cope; Holy water sprinkler; Stole; Bed; Holy water bucket; Candle; Apostle; Window; Saint; Morse; Roundels


Stained Glass; Christianity; Religion


Ceramics Collection

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