Saturday, May 14, 2011

Iconography of the Resurrection – Bursting From the Tomb

Master of Gerard Acarie, Resurrection
from Poeme sur la Passion
French, 1525-1535
New York, Morgan Library
MS M147, fol. 26r

As the iconography of the Resurrection expanded, we have seen that during the fifteenth century each stage became more animated, less static, as it developed. Toward the end of the century the final level of energy emerged in both northern and southern Europe. In this final level Christ no longer climbs from the tomb or hovers above it, He literally bursts from the tomb in a blast of energy.

These images derive from the earlier “hovering” images. However, they are not serenely triumphant; in them the posture of Christ suggests a great deal of inherent energy.

Among the most famous are the images by:

Paolo Uccello, Resurrection
Italian, 1443-1445
Florence, Cathedral

Paolo Uccello, an important painter of the first half of the fifteenth century in Florence.  Uccello's design for a stained glass window in the Cathedral of Florence brings new energy to the hovering Jesus through the fluttering robes and pennant.  In addition, the way in which the composition forces the figure of Jesus to appear in motion through the curve of His body and the flying draperies, divides the field in half and sends the figures of the guards outward, increasing the sense of movement.

Matthias Gruenewald, Resurrection
Second set of wings from Isenheim Altarpiece
German, ca. 1515
Colmar, Musee d'Unterlinden
Matthias Grünewald from the Isenheim altarpiece, painted in 1515. Sometimes referred to as the “Cosmic Christ”, everything in this picture seems to be in motion; draperies fly, the guards reel backwards or fall on their faces. Although the figure of Christ is actually hovering statically; the amazing, glowing aureole that surrounds Him and into which His face seems to merge produces an effect of great energy. In addition, His gesture and facial expression, plus the flying draperies, create a sensation of intense movement and an energetic bursting forth. Set against the dark background, we are as struck with amazement as are the guards.

Titian, Resurrection
Italian, 1520-1525
Brescia, SS. Nazario e Celso

A different, but no less energetic image, also derived from the hovering Christ, is found in the central panel of Titian’s Triptych of the Resurrection, painted at almost the same time (1520-1525) for the church of SS. Nazario and Celso in Brescia. Here the figure of Christ, although standing on a cloud, projects enormous energy. His position, poised on one leg, is an energetic one and He almost seems to be dancing in the air, as He waves the banner of victory over death, while His draperies fly out behind Him. In the background dawn breaks over a dark landscape, with a city seen in the distance. The astonished guards occupy the foreground. One guard has fallen to the ground, while the second gazes up at the Risen Lord.

Agnolo Bronzino, Resurrection
Italian, 1552
Florence, Santissima Annuziata

Mannerist painters, such as:

Agnolo Bronzino 

Tintoretto, Resurrection
Italian, 1565
Venice, Church of San Cassiano

El Greco
El Greco, Resurrection
Greco-Spanish, 1496-1500
Madrid, Museo del Prado

                                           Francesco Bassano 
Francesco Bassano, Resurrection
Italian, 1584-1588
Venice, Church of Santissimo Redentore

Il Passignano
Passignano, Resurrection
Italian, 1600-1625
Vatican City, Pinacoteca

                                             Gerard Seghers
Gerard Seghers, Resurrection
Flemish, 1620
Paris, Musee du Louvre

and surrounded the Risen Christ with much activity, even though the central figure is actually very static.

However, it is Paolo Veronese who pointed the way to the future Baroque style, as he so often did.  In his 1570-1575 painting of the Resurrection Christ seems to truly burst forth from the tomb, no longer hovering serenely or standing on a cloud.  His posture, His upraised arms, His face raised to heaven convey the sense of actual flight.  Little wonder that the guards fall back in astonishment or try to hide their faces.  
Paolo Veronese, Resurrection
Italian, ca. 1570
Dresden, Gemaeldegalerie

We have here entered a different realm of vision, culminating in such Baroque visions as that of the seventeenth-century painter Luca Giordano.

Luca Giordano, Resurrection
Italian, After 1665
Salzburg, Residenzgalerie

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