|Nicholas of Verdun, Resurrection panel|
from the Klosterneuburg Altarpiece
Klosterneuburg (Austria), Monastery Church
Consequently, artists had no Biblical text to guide them in their imagining of the moment. Without the specific guidance they were mostly free to consult their own imaginations and the images of other artists. We may distinguish the results in different “types”. Note that in this case I’m using the word “type” to mean something akin to “class” or “kind” of image.
First among the types is the image of the resurrected Christ climbing out of the tomb. It seems to have been established fairly early in the history of western art, since it appears in one of Nicolas of Verdun’s most famous masterpieces, the 1181 Klosterneuburg Altarpiece. The altarpiece is made up of multiple enameled images, arranged into three horizontal tiers, showing Biblical scenes from the periods Before the Law (Genesis), Under the Law (Old Testament) and Under Grace (New Testament).
In this scene Christ is shown, climbing from the tomb, with His arms upraised in prayer to the Father. Blood spurts from the wound in His side. In front of the tomb are the figures of three guards. Two of them are shown huddled in terror, while the third shields his face with his left hand. Around the scene is a border with an inscription. Under the scene the inscription reads: Agnus Paschalis (Pascal Lamb), while around the scene are the words: Vitam dat tento triduo Pater in monumento (Given life by the Father after three days in the tomb). (The translations are mine.) Words are separated by black enameled dots (not to be confused with the small screws that hold the plates in the armature of the altarpiece.
The iconography of this Resurrection type did not change much over time. Later examples come from:
|Dieric Bouts, Resurrection|
Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum,
|Piero della Francesca, Resurrection|
Sansepulcro, Pinacoteca Comunale
Sixteenth-century Central Italy
|Michelangelo drawing, Resurrection|
Windsor, Royal Collection
Over time the level of energy represented in the scene increased. And this rising energy level points the way to the next two “types”.