Monday, April 1, 2024

Links for the Easter Season

Anthony van Dyck, The Resurrection
Flemish, c. 1631-1632
Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Athenaeum

The days of Lent and the days of sadness that are the Triduum are past and Easter 2024 has arrived!




I wish you a happy and profoundly inspiring Easter Season.

 To guide some of your explorations of the themes of this joyful season I recommend to you the links below.  They lead to some of the commentary that I have written over the years regarding the iconography of the Easter Season, which extends from this happy day till Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.

Please feel free to explore the art created to imagine the Resurrection and the days immediately following, all the way through to the feast of the Holy Trinity.  I hope that considering these events and the pictures that artists have created to illustrate them over the centuries will help you to feel more connected to the long tradition of Christian art offered to the glory of God and to the living Church of our own time.

Links have constantly been improved over the years.  New images, better quality images and new material are constantly being incorporated.  If the original publication date suggests the material is now old, it isn't.  I am constantly revising and housekeeping.

Please note that over the course of the Easter Season I will be overhauling every one of the essays listed below to swap out old images with few pixels for newer ones with a greater number of pixels, giving you more visible details when you enlarge the images.  I will also be adding new images that turn up in the course of my hunt for improved ones (and this happens all the time).  Much more material turns up every year!  So, check back often to see what's new.

The Resurrection, the Appearances, the Incredulity of Thomas, Emmaus



The Women at the Tomb

Noli Me Tangere

Jesus, the Gardener

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

An Awkward
Resurrection Image

Good Shepherd Sunday

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

Christ Presents the Redeemed to His Mother

The Ascension

Striding into the Sky

Lifted in a Mondorla or on a Cloud

The Disappearing Feet

The Direct Approach


Tongues of Fire    

At This Sound, They Gathered In a Crowd

A Dove Descending  

The Holy  Trinity

Worthy Is The Lamb

Father, Son, Spirit

Iconography of the
Holy Trinity –
Imagining The Unimaginable

The Holy Trinity -- Love Made Visible

The Holy Trinity -- The Throne of Grace



© M. Duffy, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Iconography of the Resurrection – The Women at the Tomb

Master Henri, The Three Women at the Tomb
From Livre d'image du Christ et des saincts
Flemish (Hainaut), c. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS NAF 16251, fol. 43v

"When the sabbath was over, 
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome 
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another, 
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.

On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 
‘He is going before you to Galilee; 
there you will see him, as he told you.’”

Mark 16:1-7 (Gospel for the Easter Vigil)

To quote from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, iconography is “1: pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject; 2: the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject; 3: the imagery or symbolism of a work of art, an artist, or a body of art”.

The iconography of any subject develops and changes over time. Christian iconography develops and changes too, as reflection on the Gospels and Tradition develops over time.

The iconography of the Resurrection was very slow to evolve. Unlike the Crucifixion which, because it deals with a fact of human life, the death of an individual, can be readily grasped by the human imagination and converted into images, the Resurrection is outside of human experience and, therefore, more difficult to imagine. What ought the Resurrection of Jesus to look like? How can it be graphically represented? Can it be represented at all? These are some of the questions that must have been in the minds of artists and their patrons from the time of the first Christian images.

For the most part, the early Church and its artists chose not to try to represent the Resurrection. It was alluded to symbolically, but not pictured, as for example by the wreathed Chi Ro, shown here on a sarcophagus from ca. 350 AD, now in the Vatican Museo Pio-Christiano, where the presence of the sleeping guards is a clear reference to the Resurrection.

Chi Rho from Early Christian Roman Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Christ
Roman, c. 350 AD
Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, Museo Pio-Christiano

Early Images of the Women at the Tomb

The earliest images that directly reference the Resurrection are those that represent the Three Marys at the Tomb. This iconography visualizes the account, found in the three synoptic Gospels, of women (two in Matthew (Matthew 28:1-7), three in Mark (Mark 16:1-8) and Luke (Luke 14:1-11), who go to the tomb early on the morning after the Passover Sabbath to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body. There they find an empty tomb and an angel messenger (or messengers in Luke) who tells them that Jesus is not there, that He has risen.

Crucifixion, Women at the Tomb and Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene
From the Rabbula Gospels
Syrian, c. 586
Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana
MS Cod. Plut. I, 56, fol.13r

These images first appear in the Rabbula Gospels, produced in Syria in the sixth century. Shown underneath the scene of the Crucifixion are two scenes from the Resurrection. On the left two women receive the message of the angel, while on the right the Risen Lord appears to one of them, presumably to Mary Magdalene. In between is the empty tomb, represented as a small, temple-like classical building.

Similar images seem to begin appearing in western Europe around the year 900 AD. 

Two beautiful manuscript examples come from the Ottonian imperial scriptoria at Reichenau and a third from Fulda or Mainz.

The Women at the Tomb
From the Bamberg Apocalypse
German (Reichenau), c. 1000-1020
Bamberg, Bamberg State Library,
MS Msc. B 140, fol. 69v

The Three Women and the Angel at the Tomb
From the Book of Pericopes of Heinrich II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4452, fol. 116v-117r

The Women at the Tomb
From a Sacramentary
German (Mainz or Fulda), c. 1025-1050
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig V 2, fol. 19v

All were painted during the first half of the eleventh century. Here two (LA) or three (Bamberg and Munich) women, holding pots of ointments and incense, are shown listening to the message of the angel, who is seated on the door slab. In the background is the tomb, shown as a small domed building. Inside the tomb, silhouetted against the background in the Bamberg Apocalypse and the Sacramentary is the burial cloth. In the same two manuscripts the tomb guards are shown as sleeping figures.

Similar images appeared in the sculpture of the Carolingian and Ottonian periods.  Among these are ivory carvings and the famous bronze column commissioned by Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim at the beginning of the 11th Century.

Ivory Plaque with the Holy Women at the Sepulchre
Italian, Early 10th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection

Relief, The Three Women at the Tomb
German, c. 1000-1050
Dole, Musédes Beaux-Arts

Bronze Relief, The Women at the Tomb
From the Column of Bishop Bernward
German, 1015
Hildesheim, Church of St. Mary

The image of the three women has continued to be popular in Western art ever since. Some notable examples from the history of Western art are:

During the Middle Ages

The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Psalter of Christina of Markyate
English (St. Alban's), c. 1124-1145
Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, Page 50

The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Book of Pericopes of Saint Erentrud in Salzburg
German (Salzburg), 11th-12th Century
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 15903, fol. 37r

Ivory Relief, The Women at the Tomb
German, c. 1150-1170
Cologne, Schnütgen Museum

The Women at the tomb
French (Languedoc), c. 1150-1175
Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Sculptures du Moyen Age, de la Renaissance et des temps modernes

The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Munich Golden Psalter
English (Oxford), c. 1190
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 835, fol. 26v

The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Psalter of Queen Ingeborg
French, c. 1195
Chantilly, Musée Condé
MS 9, fol. 28v

The Angel and the Women at the Tomb
German, c. 1240
Soest, Evangelical Parish Church of Saint Mary on High

The Beginnings of the Renaissance

The Holy Women at the Tomb
Italian, 14th Century
Rodez, Musée des Beaux-Arts Denys Puech

Duccio, The Three Marys at the Tomb
Italian, c. 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Tino di Camaino, The Holy Women at the Tomb
Italian, 1319
Florence, Church of Santa Croce

Jeanne de Montbaston, The Three Women at the Tomb
From a Vies de saints
French (Paris), c. 1325-1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 185, fol. 25r

Ferrer Bassa, The Three Women at the Tomb
Catalan, c. 1346
Barcelona, Monastery of Pedralbes

The Women at the Tomb
From Vies de la Vierge et du Christ
Italian (Naples), c. 1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9561, fol. 184v

Jacopo di Cione and Workshop, The Women at the Tomb
Italian, c. 1370-1371
London, National Gallery

Master of the Trinity, The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Petites Heures of Jean de Berry
French (Bourges), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, fol. 163r

The Renaissance in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Lorenzo Monaco, The Holy Women at the Tomb
Italian, 1408
Paris, Musée du Louvre

Fra Angelico and Assistants, The Women at the Tomb
Italian, c. 1440-1442
Florence, Museo di San Marco, Cell # 8

Imitator of Andrea Mantegna, The Women at the Tomb
Italian, c. 1460-1555
London, National Gallery

Wood Carving, The Resurrection and theWomen at the Tomb
Flemish, c. 1460
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Girolamo dai Libri, The Holy Women at the Tomb
Single page From an Antiphonary
Italian, c. 1490-1500
New York, Metropolitan Museum
Accession No 62.122.17

Master of 1477, The Holy Women at Christ's Tomb
German, c. 1490
Esztergom (HU), Christian Museum

Johann Schoensperger, The Women at the Tomb
From a Printed Copy of the Speculum humanae salvationis
German (Augsburg), 1492
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Incunabula
Call Nu 2 Inc.c.a. 2768

The Three Women at the Tomb
From a Mirouer de la redemption de l'human lignage
French, c. 1493-1494
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS VELINS-906, fol. 117v

Reliquary, Women at the Tomb
Flemish, 16th Century
Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse

The Women at the Tomb and the Noli Me Tangere
English, c. 1515-1547
Cambridge (UK), King's College Chapel

Workshop of Jan Gillisz Wrage. The Women at the Tomb
From an Altarpiece with Scenes from the Life of Christ
Flemish, 1521
Dortmund, Church of Saint Peter

Matthias Gerung, The Three Women at the Tomb
From the Ottheinrich Bible, Vol. 2
German (Ingoldstadt), c. 1530-1532
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Cgm 8010(2), fol. 69v

Gerhard Remisch, The Women at the Tomb
German, c. 1540-1542
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

The Baroque Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Annibale Carraci, The Three Women at the Tomb
Italian, 1590s
Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Jacques Bellange, The Three Marys at the Tomb
French, c. 1620s
London, Trustees of the British Museum

Francesco Albani, The Holy Women at the Tomb
Italian, c. 1640-1645
Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Collection

Circle of Luca Giordano, The Women at the Tomb
Italian, Late 17th Century
Private Collection

Johann Georg Trautmann, The Holy Women at Christ's Tomb
German, c. 1760
Esztergom (HU), Christian Museum

And Into the Nineteenth Century and Beyond

Benjamin West, The Women at the Tomb
American, 1805
New  York, Brooklyn Museum

Oscar Gue, The Three Women at the Tomb
French, c. 1842
Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts

Max Ritter von Widnmann, The Women at the Tomb
German, 1863
Munich, Cathedral of Our Lady

William Adolphe Bougereau, The Three Women at the Tomb
French, 1876
Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts

James Tissot, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb
French, c. 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Clement John Heston, The Three Marys
English, 1910
Berne, Church of the Schüpfen

This was one of the earliest iconographic treatments of the Resurrection Gospels.  However, it has been joined by a number of other images of what the Resurrection event might look like, which we will explore in subsequent posts.

© M. Duffy, 2011.  Images refreshed and new material added 2024.


Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.