Dormition of the Virgin

about 1340–45
Unidentified artist, Bohemian (Prague), mid 14th century


100 x 71.1 cm (39 3/8 x 28 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tempera on panel

On View

Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254)





Originally part of an altarpiece, this is one of the greatest panel paintings produced in Bohemia during the reign of King Charles IV. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary was not dead but only sleeping during the three days before she was taken up to heaven, an event witnessed by Christ’s followers, the twelve Apostles. Here, Christ blesses the recumbent Virgin while holding her diminutive soul. The three figures along the bottom edge probably represent the patrons who commissioned the painting.


By 1420, possibly the nobles of Weitmuehl, Kosátsky Castle, near Jungbunzlau (now Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic) [see note 1]; by the late 15th century, the counts of Kolowrat, Kosátsky Castle [see note 2]; until 1950, by descent within the family to Henry Kolowrat, New York; 1950, sold by Henry Kolowrat to Henry Pearlman (b. 1895 - d. 1974), New York [see note 3]; 1950, probably sold by Mr. Pearlman to E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York [see note 4]; 1950, sold by Silberman to the MFA for $36,000. (Accession Date: June 8, 1950)

[1] This was suggested by Kuchynka in "Památky Archaeologické," 33 (1923); for the reference, see Antonin Matejcek, "Ceska Malba Gotika Deskova Malirstvi" (Prague, 1940), p. 57, no. 17 (English translation in MFA curatorial file).

[2] If the work had been owned by the nobles of Weitmuehl, as suggested above, it would have been obtained through marriage by the counts of Kolowrat, who acquired Kosátsky Castle in the late 15th century. In a letter from Henry Kolowrat to Henry Pearlman (January 6, 1950), the painting is said to have been in the possession of his family for about 500 years, though he does not specify how it was acquired. From 1934 to 1939, it was on loan from Kolowrat to the National Museum, Prague (inv. no. OP2110).

[3] In the letter from Kolowrat to Pearlman (see above, n. 2) the author writes "I am glad to have sold you the Bohemian panel painting, 'Death of the Virgin.'"

[4] According to correspondence in the MFA curatorial file, the painting was with Silberman by early May, 1950. In an interoffice memorandum from W. G. Constable to George Edgell of the MFA (May 31, 1950), Silberman is said to have acquired the painting fully on May 26.

Credit Line

William Francis Warden Fund, Seth K. Sweetser Fund, The Henry C. and Martha B. Angell Collection, Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection, Gift of Martin Brimmer, and Gift of Reverend and Mrs. Frederick Frothingham, by exchange