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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Art and Jesus--His Burial

The Deposition, 1435, Mathias Grunewald,
Entombment of Christ, 1450,
Rogier van der Weyden
The story of Jesus Christ did not end with his crucifixion, either in the gospel accounts or in the visual images provided us by artists. Within hours of his death, the body was taken down from the cross. In 1435, Germany's Mathias Grunewald, as he did with so many other moments in the life of Jesus, depicted this effort with his usual intimate, gruesome honesty in his Deposition (above). A few years later, in 1450, one of his countrymen, Rogier van der Weyden painted a similar scene titled The Entombment of Christ (left). In that they are closely related as to style and content, together the two paintings provide an almost moment-by-moment narrative of the mournful aftermath following Jesus' crucifixion.

Christ Carried from the Tomb,
1560, Tintoretto
Entombment, ca. 1500,
Michelangelo, about 1500, also began, but did not complete, his version of the event (above, right). As we've seen before in the work of Tintoretto, his depiction, Christ Carried to the Tomb, (above, left) is a darkly dramatic scene full of mannerist diagonals and complex masses.

Descent from the Cross, 1611-14, Peter Paul Rubens
Descent from the Cross,
1634, Rembrandt.
Peter Paul Rubens' Descent from the Cross (above) from 1611-14, portrays in great detail the difficulty in handling the awkward weight of a dead body by Jews adverse to even touching it. The altarpiece was painted for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium. Rembrandt's version by the same title (left), dating from 1634, is similar but much darker and less highly populated with struggling figures. He painted a second version around 1652.

My own depiction, The Burial (bottom) borrows elements from both the descent from the cross and various depictions of the burial. It is no less realistic (I'm told the flesh tone is exactly right for a dead body). However, the use of only the arms and lower bodies of Jesus' attendants avoids the distraction of so many faces, figures, and background.

Copyright, Jim Lane
The Burial, 1999, Jim Lane

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