Master Bertram (Minden, circa 1345 - Hamburg, 1415), The Ascension, circa 1390, oil on wood, cm 52 x 51, Hannover, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum
The small wood piece by the German painter is part of a large painting - the Polyptych of the Passion - where we find several episodes describing the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
This representation of the Ascension amazes us. This is not a partial reproduction, as the Master wanted to represent precisely in this particular way the moment of the detachment of Jesus from the earth.
The scene shows the apostles - we recognize John, on the left, holding the book and Peter with the white beard on the right - who, together with Mary, are represented at the moment when "they still stared at the sky Jesus was leaving", as described in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles (1:10). And Jesus is really removed from their eyes and from ours, to the point that we only get to see his feet and the lower part of the garment, because the rest of his body has already been wrapped in the cloud - blue as a sea wave - which can be seen in the upper and middle part of the painting.
It is, however, particularly special that everything in this painting invites us to come out from the eyes of the disciples and the Mother of Jesus: if we think for a moment, no painting achieves better than this one the mystery of Jesus’ Ascension to the sky.
Unlike the apostles, we do not need to wait for the voice that requests to quit looking up. In fact, it is time for us to wait for His return - we do not know the day or the hour, but we know that Jesus will come back - as Master Bertram, more than 6 centuries ago, wanted to remind us with this very singular iconography.
"Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Our heart is rising with him" (Saint Augustine).