Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Empty Tomb

Resurrection, Alabaster Carving
English, 1400-1420
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Christ is Risen! 
Alleluia! Alleluia!

I wish everyone a Blessed and Joyful Easter.

The long days of Lent are over.  The sadness of Good Friday has passed and the great proclamation of Easter, the Exsultet, has been proclaimed.  Easter is here at last!

The iconography of the Resurrection is a topic that I examined extensively in 2011, so I refer you to the essays on the subject listed below.  I intend to update these articles with new materials during the Easter season, so please visit the links occasionally during this time.

The Women at the Tomb

Noli Me Tangere

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas)

Emmaus -- The Journey

Emmaus -- The Recognition

Climbing from the Tomb

Hovering over the Tomb

Bursting from the Tomb

The Lake of Galilee -- The Disciples Go Fishing

Commission to Peter -- The Good Shepherd Transfers Responsibility

The Commission to the Apostles

Christ Appears to His Mother

and also An Awkward Resurrection Image

Christ is Risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!  Below is video of the great triple alleluia sung only at Easter Vigil.  It is followed by the reading of the Gospel from Easter Vigil (filmed at the Brompton Oratory in London, England, 2008).

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stations of the Cross: The Fourteenth Station, The Body of Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

Titian, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1572
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
All four of the Gospels tell us about the burial of Jesus after the Crucifixion.   They tell us that there was a sense of urgency because it was late on a Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin.  They tell us that His body was wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in a newly hewn tomb in the rock near the place where He died.  John adds the detail that spices were brought by a man named, Nicodemus, and that the spices were incorporated in the linen wrappings.  But one receives the impression that it was an emotion charged, hurried burial, probably a bit tense as well.  And the three Synoptic Gospels include the fact that there were women among the group who made note of the location and intended to return as soon as the Sabbath was over to do a better job of honoring His body.1

The earliest images of the burial of Jesus take pains to include many of these Gospel details.  They show the linen cloth and often the spices being poured.  Although the figures do show emotion, it is kept firmly under control.   At the beginning only men were depicted attending to the burial.  Later, the Virgin Mary and then the other women were added.

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
From the Gospels of Otto III
German (Reichenau), c. 1000
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS BSB Clm 4453, fol. 250v

Jesus Laid in the Tomb
From the Book of Pericopes of Emperor Henry II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS BSB Clm 5442, fol. 108r

Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1086-1100
Rome, Church of Sant'Urbano alla Caffarella
Burial of Jesus, From the Ingeborg Psalter
French, c.1195
Chantilly, Musée Condé
MS 9
Burial of Jesus
From a Psalter
German (Augsburg), 1230-1255
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 280, fol. 8r

Burial of Jesus, From Psalter and Book of Hours
Belgian (Liege), c.1250-1300
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 G 17, fol. 184r

Burial of Jesus, From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 41v

Burial of Jesus, From Picture Bible
French (St. Omer, Abbey of St. Bertin), c.1290-1300
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F5, fol. 21v

By the early fourteenth century the spice jar has disappeared for the most part and the scene has become one of intense emotion.  The participants weep, the throw themselves on the body, they raise their hands in the air, they kiss parts of the body.  One can almost hear the wailing coming from the painted mouths. 

Giotto, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1320-1325
Settignano, Berenson Collection

Pietro Lorenzetti, Burial of Jesus
Italian, c.1320
Assisi, Church of San Francesco, Lower Church

Simone Martini, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1335-1344
Berlin, Gemldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Taddeo Gaddi, Burial of Jesus
Italian, c1335-1340
Florence, Church of Santa Croce, Cappella di Bardi di Vernio

Giovanni di Benedetto and Collaborators, Burial of Jesus
From a Book of Hours
Italian (Milan), c.1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin757, fol. 91

Master of Flemalle, Burial of Jesus
From the Seilern Triptych (central panel)
Belgian, 1410-1420
London, Courtauld Gallery

Michelino de'Molinari de Besozzo, Burial of Jesus
From Prayer Book
Italian, 1425-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 944, fol. 24v
Jean Fouquet, Burial of Jesus
From Hours of Etienne Chevalier
Chantilly, Musée Condé
MS 71, fol. 20

Master of the Autun Triptych, Burial of Jesus
French, 1512-1530
Dole, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Godefroy le Batave, Burial of Jesus
From La vie de la belle et clere Magdalene
French (Central), c.1516-1530
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 24955, fol. 49
The words in the circular border translate as "There is no grief like the grief of a mother"

Most images from the Middle Ages up to the early sixteenth century show the body of Jesus stretched out on or held over a sarcophagus type tomb, with a few exceptions.  The exceptions come to us from the minds of some exceptional artists such as Fra Angelico, Rogier van der Weyden and Michelangelo.

Fra Angelico, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1438-1440
Munich, Bayerisches Gemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakotek

Rogier van der Weyden, Burial of Jesus
Belgian, 1450
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi

Michelangelo, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1500-1501
London, National Gallery 
They show us a rather awkward image in which the limp body of Christ, supported by someone standing behind, is held up for a full length frontal view.  This image probably draws on the iconographic tradition of the Man of Sorrows,2 presenting us with a full-length version instead of the more traditional half-length. 

However, the general direction of artists, beginning with Raphael, is to show us, not a static pause for lamentation before burial, but the sheer fact of manipulating a corpse.  They show us the struggle to carry the limp body and to place it in the tomb.  Christ’s body sags, His arms hang down, His dead flesh resists the efforts to restrain it.  The helpers strain against the weight, the dead weight. The deadness of the dead Christ is emphasized.  

Raphael, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1507
Rome, Galleria Borghese

Titian, Burial of Jesus
Italian, c. 1525
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Giorgio Vasari, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1532
Arezzo, Casa Vasari
Tintoretto, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1592-1594
Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore

El Greco, Burial of Jesus
Greco-Spanish, late 1560s
Athens, Alexandros Soutzos Museum
Jacopo Bassano, Burial of Jesus
Italian, c. 1570
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Caravaggio, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1600-1604
Vatican, Vatican Museums, Pinacoteca

Peter Paul Rubens, Burial of Jesus
Belgian, 1615-1616
London, Courtauld Gallery

Nicolas Tournier, Burial of Jesus
French, 1632-1635
Toulouse, Musée des Augustins

Rembrandt, Burial of Jesus
Dutch, c.1635
Glasgow, Hunterian Art Gallery

Paolo Naldini, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1651-1700
Rome, Church of San Marcello al Corso

Guercino, Burial of Jesus
Italian, 1656
Chicago, Art Institute

Adriaen van der Werff, Burial of Jesus
Dutch, 1703
Munich, Alte Pinakotek

Joseph Thomas Chautard, Burial of Jesus
French, 1866
Pau, Musée nationale du chateau de Pau

This is also the period during which artists gave us many images of the dead Christ in the tomb as well as the most glorious images of the Risen Christ.  Taken together these images emphasize the story of redemption.  He was truly dead and now is risen. 
Rosso Fiorintino, Dead Christ with Angels
Italian, 1524-1526
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

Veronese, Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels
Italian, 1587-1589
Berlin, Staatliche Museen

Guercino, Angels Weeping Over the Dead Christ
Italian, 1618
London, National Gallery

Philippe de Champaigne, Dead Christ
French, Before 1654
Paris, Musée du Louvre

By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the mood began to change and the personal grief of the mourners came to the fore once again, although expressed in less extravagant gestures than in the late medieval period. 

Jules Joseph Meynier, Return from Calvary
French, 1873
Pau, Musée national du Chateau de Pau
Here the actual burial is placed in the background

James Tissot, The Anointing Stone
From The Life of Christ
French, 1888-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

James Tissot, The Body of Jesus Carried to the Tomb
From The Life of Christ
French, 1888-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Maurice Denis, Burial of Jesus
French, 1903
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée Maurice Denis, La Prieure

Eric Gill, The Body of Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral
© M. Duffy, 2016

1.  Matthew 27:59-61; Mark 15:46-47; Luke 23: 53-56; John 19:39-42

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stations of the Cross: The Thirteenth Station, The Body of Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

Stained Glass
German, 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

All of the Gospels agree that Jesus died fairly quickly and that a man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and requested the body. 1   We know, therefore, that by the evening hours of Good Friday the body of Jesus had been removed from the cross and hurriedly prepared for burial.

We also know, from all four Gospels, that members of Jesus’ family, including His mother, and several disciples were at Calvary during His death agony.  Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that they were also there for the removal of the body.

With these basic details in mind artists have imagined the unfolding of this tragic scene, in images known by several names: The Deposition, the Descent from the CrossThe Body of Jesus Taken Down from the Cross, all are valid titles for the same subject.  

From the Taymouth Hours
English (London), 1325-1350
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 123v
This early 14th century manuscript shows both the Deposition and, in the bottom margin, a Pieta image.

Closely related to this subject is the Pieta, in which the body of Jesus is laid on His mother’s lap as she sits on the ground.  This in itself has a rich image history, but it is not the subject that we are considering here, however.  Here we are looking only at those images that reflect the actual removal of the body from the cross.

Basilius, Deposition
From The Melisande Psalter
Eastern Mediterranean (Jerusalem), 1131-1143
London, British Library
MS Egerton 1139, fol. 8v

The characters with which artists have peopled their images of the subject always include Mary, St. John and Joseph of Arimathea, always imagined as a mature, even elderly, man.  Others may be Mary Magdalene and the other holy women who followed Jesus, some of whom are named in the Gospels as being present at Calvary.  There is almost always at least one additional man, helping with the heavy task of removing the lifeless body from the cross to which it is nailed.

From the Book of Pericopes of Emperor Henry II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS BSB Clm 4452, fol. 108r

Ivory Deposition
North Italian, 1180-1200
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

Romanesque Painter, Deposition
Italian , c.1180
Aquileia, Basilia Crypt

Drawing inspiration from Byzantine icons, the early images are fairly serene.  The emotions are there, especially in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who reaches out to hold a hand or to kiss the dead face.  

Deposition, From Picture Bible
French (St.Omer, Abbey of St. Bertin), c.1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 20v

Crucifixion and Deposition
From Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche of Castille
French (Paris), c.1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol. 24

From a Psalter
Italian (Bologna), 1275-1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Smith-Lesouef 21, fol. 22

Master of the Baptism or Master of the Holy Spirit
From the Tres belles heures de Notre Dame de Jean de  Berry
French, 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale dr France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3093, fol. 216

However, as time and techniques advanced the emotions became stronger, Mary now prays or faints from grief.  Mary Magdalene too becomes more prominent and more emotive.  Probably due to her long standing interpretation as the sinful woman who bathed Christ’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, she is often seen at the feet of the corpse, touching or even kissing them. 

From Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainaut), c.1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16252, fol. 40

Duccio, Deposition
Italian, 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Pietro Lorenzetti, Deposition
Italian, c.1320
Assisi, Church of San Francesco, Lower Church

Simone Martini, Deposition
Italian, 1333
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition
Belgian, c.1435
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Fra Angelico, Deposition Altarpiece (Pala di Santa Trinita)
Italian, 1437-1440
Florence, Museo di San Marco

Dieric Bouts the Elder, Passion Alarpiece (Center)
Dutch, c.1455
Granada, Museo de la Capilla Real

Jean Bourdichon, Deposition
From Hours of Frederic of AragonFrench (Tours), 1501-1504
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10532, fol. 198

Il Sodoma, Deposition
Italian, 1510-1513
Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale

Jan Gossart, Deposition
Flemish, c.1520
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum
Il Rosso Fiorentino, Deposition
Italian, 1521
Volterra, Cathedral

Jacopo Pontormo, Deposition
Italian, c.1528
Florence, Church of Santa Felicita, Cappella Capponi

Tintoretto, Deposition
Italian, 1547-1549
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Early in the seventeenth century the great Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens, set what would become the most common interpretation of the subject in Europe for the next 150 - 200 years.  This focused on the weight of the heavy body of Jesus being lowered while supported by two or more men.

Peter Paul Rubens, Deposition
Central panel of Triptych
Belgian, 1612-1614
Antwerp, Vrouwenkahedraal

Peter Paul Rubens, Deposition
Belgian, 1617
Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Peter Paul Rubens, Deposition
Belgian, c.1620
Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Rembrandt, Deposition
Dutch, 1633
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinacotek
Rembrandt, Deposition
Dutch, 1634
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Charles LeBrun, Deposition
French, c.1642-1645
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Laurent de la Hyre, Deposition
French, 1655
Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts

LaHyre rotates the view in this unusual interpretation of the subject.

Gaspar de Crayer, Deposition
Belgian, c.1660
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Jean Jouvenet, Deposition
French, 1697
Paris, Musée du Louvre

After about the middle of the eighteenth century this strongly Rubenseque theme weakened and many different interpretations of the subject appeared.

Giandomenico Tiepolo, Deposition
Italian, 1772
Madrid, Museo del Prado
Baron Jean-Baptiste Regnault
French, 1789
Versailles, Musée National du Chateau

Eugene Deveria
French, 1835
Pau, Musée des Beau-Arts

Arnold Boecklin, Deposition
Swiss, 1871-1874
Berlin, Nationalgalerie

Theodore Chasseriau, Deposition
French, 1852-1855
Paris, Musée d'Orsay

James Tissot, Deposition
From The Life of Christ
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Eric Gill, The Body of Jesus is Taken From the
Cross and Laid in Mary's Bosom
English, 1913-1918
London, Westminster Cathedral

© M. Duffy, 2016

1.  Matthew 27:57-59; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.