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Two Realms of Light: Peter Paul Ruben’s “Assumption of Mary” (1626) and Gregory Schneider’s “End” (2008)

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The relationship between art and death in Art History is not unfamiliar. There are pictures of the ars moriendi in front of which man comprehends his anxieties and searches for consolation as peace. Peter Paul Rubens created such works in high numbers: the same Assumption of Mary five times for large altars. The best of these still hangs today in the Cathedral of Antwerp. It is an apotheosis in light and in bright colors, a belief-filled and prayerful picture that concerns the transformation of death into life. Thousands of these kinds of pictures are found in museums, so that their role for consolation and eternals peace is lost. In modern times, death in form and style has been lost. Now another artist of our own time brings death as an event back into the museum. Gregor Schneider has the idea of death-spaces in museums. They are bright, flooded with light. They lay away from the streams of visitors, only slightly accessible, illuminated, filled with light and color: death-boxes in the museum, wide rooms in which “to die beautifully and fulfilled,” as Schneider says.


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Affiliations: 1: Art History Institute of the University of Bonn


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