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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pen and reddish-brown ink, grey wash, in an oval frame. 24.5 x 22.5 cm. Circa 1721.
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The painter, Johann Georg Bergmüller, was apprenticed to Andreas Wolf in Munich before establishing himself as a master in Augsburg in 1713. In 1730, he was appointed director of the academy there and achieved considerable renown as a recognised and very busy artist up to his death in 1762. Bergmüller concentrated on wall, ceiling and facade painting. He also produced numerous altar pieces, quite a few of which have been preserved. Among his earliest and most important frescoes are the four ceiling paintings in the Lady Chapel in Augsburg Cathedral, which were commissioned in 1721.
The present sheet could be an alternative design for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fourth ceiling panel of the Lady Chapel, although this hypothesis cannot be proven with any degree of certainty. A characteristic feature of the complex iconographical programme used in the Lady Chapel is the combination of Mariological scenes with mythological elements. Sitting in the right foreground is a woman with the caduceus, who could be the goddess Iris (the dawn). Our drawing is stylistically similar to a preliminary study for the Blessed Virgin Mary, which shows the final composition executed without any further changes (Metropolitan Museum, New York). Both sheets are drawn in reddish-brown ink and have a meticulous soft grey wash. Bergmüller has sketched the demanding multi-figured composition with masterly strokes of the brush and apparently effortless ease. Individual details, such as the devout pose of the little girl reading and the boisterous activity of the mischievous cherubim, are observed with great sensitivity. The whole radiates a Baroque lightness and consummate mastery of the artistic means of expression, which are the hallmark of a talented and experienced draughtsman.