Saturday, May 14, 2011

Iconography of the Resurrection – Bursting From the Tomb

Cornelis Schut, Resurrection
Flemish, Before 1628
Cologne, Walraf-Richartz Museum

As the iconography of the Resurrection expanded, we have seen that each stage became more animated, less static, as it developed, progressing from the image of Christ climbing out of the tomb to that of His hovering in the space above it.  Toward the beginning of the fifteenth 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.  In these images the figure of Jesus seems to spring out of the tomb and soar upward.  The impression of energy is reinforced by His posture as well as by the seeming movement of His draperies and banner, which seem to flutter in the wind generated by His rapid movement.

Unlike in the images of climbing and hovering His feet are not pictured as being flattened as for standing, but instead are pointed downward, increasing the effect of aerodynamics created by the fluttering garments and banner.  He is sometimes assisted by angels who move the lid of the sarcophagus or stone at the portal or who may be simple adorers.

The guards, clustered at the bottom of the picture, are no longer mainly asleep, although some are. However, more often they now cower in fear and awe, attempt to flee or shield their eyes from His glory.
Giovanni da Ponte, Resurrection
Italian, 15th Century
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Paolo Uccello, Resurrection
Italian, 1443-1445
Florence, Cathedral

Guillaume Hugueniot, Resurrection
from Hours of Pierre de Bosredont
French (Burgundy), c. 1470-1529
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 55, fol. 61r
Pietro di Francesco degli Orioli, Resurrection
Italian, c. 1475
Cambridge (UK), Fitzwilliam Museum

Hans Memling, Resurrection
Right wing of Crucifixion Triptych
German, 1480s
Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Muzeum

Jan Joest von Kalkar, Resurrection
Dutch, 1508
Kalkar Kreis Kleve, Catholic Parish Church of St.Nickolas

Perhaps the greatest, as it certainly is the best known, painting of this type from this early period is one of the second series of wings from the Isenheim altarpiece, painted in 1515 by Matthias Grünewald. 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 somewhat 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.

Matthias Grünewald, Resurrection
Wing from the Isenheim Altar
German, ca. 1515
Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden
Benvenuto Tisi called Il Garofalo
Italian, 1520
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
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 as that of Grünewald and Il Garofalo (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.
Titian, Resurrection
Italian, 1520-1525
Brescia,  Church of Saints Nazario e Celso

Painters of the Mannerist period, the middle decades of the sixteenth century into the beginning of the seventeenth century, surrounded the Risen Christ with much activity, even though the central figure is actually very static.
Giovanni Capassini, Resurrection
Italian, 1555
Tournon, Lycée Gabriel Fauré
One could say that this image brings together Grünewald and Titian and adds the plummeting figure of defeated Death in the form of a skeleton plunging head downward to earth with his spear.  I am not able to make out the words in the plaque near the head of the skeleton, but they may be "Where, O Death, is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?" from St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:55)  

Bronzino, Resurrection
Italian, 1552
Florence, Church of Santissima Annunziata
Francesco Bassano, Resurrection
Italian, 1584-1588
Venice, Church of Santissimo Redentore

Antoine Caron, Resurrection
French, 1589
Beauvais, MUDO, Musée de l'Oise
Here Jesus almost appears to be executing the steps of a courtly dance in the air as He breaks forth from the tomb.

El Greco, Resurrection
Greco-Spanish, 1597-1500
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Il Passignano, Resurrection
Italian, 1600-25
Vatican, Musei Vaticani, Pinacoteca
Passignano's work includes several Biblical quotations.  Directly under the feet of Jesus it reads "Absorpta est 
mors in victoria", meaning "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).  At the bottom of the painting
it reads "Notas mihi fecisti vias vitæ; adimplebis me lætitia cum vultu tuo"  or "You will show me the path to life, 
abounding joy in your presence" (Psalm 16:11).  

However, it is Paolo Veronese who pointed the way to the future Baroque style, as he so often did.  In a series of paintings of the Resurrection which he painted in the 1570s and 1580s 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.  We have here entered a different realm of vision.
Paolo Veronese, Resurrection
Italian, 1570-1575
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister

Paolo Veronese, Resurrection
Italian, 1570s
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Paolo Veronese, Resurrection
Italian, c. 1580-1590
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Baroque and Rococo artists who came after Veronese adopted his dynamic image and developed it further during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on into the twentieth.

Annibale Carracci, Resurrection
Italian, c. 1600
Montpelier, Musée Fabre
Paulus Willemszoon van Vianen, Resurrection
Dutch, 1605
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Pieter Lastman, Resurrection
Dutch, 1612
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
Salvatore Rosa, Resurrection
Italian, c. after 1622
Chantilly, Musée Condé

Anthony van Dyck, Resurrection
Flemish, c. 1631-1632
Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Athenaeum
Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Resurrection
Dutch, c. 1635
Chicago, Art Institute
Alessandro Turchi, Resurrection
Italian, c. 1640-1649
Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Jan Boeckhorst, Resurrection
The Snyders Triptych Center
German, 1659
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Luca Giordano, Resurrection
Italian, After 1665
Salzburg, Residenzgalerie
Samuel van Hoogstreten, Resurrection
Dutch, 1665-1670
Chicago, Art Institute
Sebastiano Ricci, Resurrection
Italian, c. 1715-1716
Dulwich (UK), Dulwich Picture Gallery
Jean Francois de Troy, Resurrection
French, 1739
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Franz Xaver Wagenschoen, Resurrection
Austrian, c. 1750-1770
Vienna, Belvedere Museum

Laurent Pecheux, Resurrection
French, c. 1764
DôleMusée des Beaux-Arts
Nicola Guibal, Resurrection
French, 1764-1766
Stuttgart, Schloss Solitude, Chapel

Attributed to Januarius Zick, Resurrection
German, c. 1770
Glastonbury (UK), Glastonbury Abbey
Eugene Deveria, Resurrection
French, 1835
Pau, Musée des Beaux-Arts

James Tissot. Resurrection
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
Samuel Lawson Booth, Resurrection
British, c. 1880-1890
Southport (UK), Atkinson Art Gallery
Georges Rouault, Resurrection
French, 1934
Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou
© M. Duffy, 2011, revised 2017

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