Friday, May 13, 2011

Iconography of the Resurrection – Hovering Over the Tomb

Fra Angelico, Resurrection
Italian, 1440-1442
Florence, Convent of San Marco
After the image of Jesus climbing out of the tomb artists began to develop the image of Jesus hovering (as it were) above the tomb. This seems to have been an image particularly favored during the fifteenth century in Italy, the period called the Quattrocento. Among them are paintings by:

Fra Angelico –  Here the Risen Jesus appears in a mandorla above the tomb as the women listen to the angel announce the Resurrection. The presence at the far left of the picture of a Dominican friar in prayer suggests that this image should be understood more as vision for meditation than a narrative of the actual Resurrection event.

Giovanni Bellini, Resurrection
Italian, 1475-1479
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
Giovanni Bellini –  In this image the Risen Jesus “stands” on a cloud above the tomb, holding the banner of victory, while the guards are seen in various poses of fear and astonishment. The women can be seen approaching in the landscape background.

Pinturrichio, The Risen Christ Adored by Alexander VII
Italian, 1492-1494
Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, Borgia Apartments
Pinturicchio – Like Fra Angelico’s this image suggests that it is to be read as a meditation on the Resurrection, due to the presence at the far left of a portrait of Pope Alexander VII, the notorious Rodrigo Borgia.

These paintings present a static, devotional image of the moment of Resurrection. This “type” seems to have had a much shorter life than the image of Christ climbing out of the tomb. This life appears to have been confined primarily to the fifteenth century. It would be replaced very quickly with a more energetic, even “explosive” image.

More to come.