“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
Hans Holbein the Younger – Christ’s Body in the Grave
The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb is an oil and tempera on limewood painting created by the German artist and printmaker Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8 – 1543) between 1520–22. The work shows a life-size, grotesque depiction of the stretched and unnaturally thin body of Jesus Christ lying in his tomb. Holbein shows the dead Son of God after he has suffered the fate of an ordinary human.
The painting is especially notable for its dramatic dimensions (30.5 cm x 200 cm), and the fact that Christ’s face, hands and feet, as well as the wounds in his torso, are depicted as realistic dead flesh in the early stages of putrefaction. His body is shown as long and emaciated while eyes and mouth are left open. The effect of the open eyes and mouth has been described by the art critic Michel Onfray as giving the impression that “the viewer sees Christ seeing: he might also perceive what death has in store, because he’s staring at the heavens, while his soul is probably there already. No-one has taken the trouble to close his mouth and his eyes. Or else Holbein wants to tell us that, even in death, Christ still looks and speaks.”
Christ is shown with three visible wounds; on his hand, side and feet. Describing on the artists’ use of unflinching realism, Bätschmann and Griener noted that Christ’s raised and extended middle finger appears to “reach towards the beholder”, while his strands of hair “look as if they are breaking through the surface of the painting”. Above the body, angels holding instruments of the Passion bear an inscription in brush on paper inscribed with the Latin words “IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM” (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews).
Raphael – The Entombment
The Deposition, also known as the Pala Baglione, Borghese Deposition or The Entombment, is an oil painting by the Italian High Renaissance painter Raphael. Signed and dated “Raphael Urbinas MDVII (1507)”, the painting is in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. It is the central panel of a larger altarpiece commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni of Perugia in honor of her slain son, Grifonetto Baglioni. The painting is on wood panel and measures 184 x 176 cm.
Looking at the painting, the scene is actually neither the Deposition nor the Entombment, but located somewhere in-between. We can determine this through the background: on the right is Mount Calvary, the location of the Crucifixion and Deposition, and on the left is the cave where the Entombment will take place. And so two men, lacking halos, use a piece of linen to carry the dead Christ and it seems as if all the participants in the bearing of the body are in suspended animation.
The two men and Christ form very strong diagonals in the shape of a V. The younger man on the right holding Christ is posited to be a representation of the slain youth, Grifonetto himself. Besides the two men carrying the body, we have St. John and Nicodemus behind and to the left and Mary Magdalene holding the hand of Christ. The legs of St. John and Nicodemus do present a distracting problem, especially in the case of Nicodemus because due to the obstruction of the view, it is not clear what he is exactly doing, or what he is exactly looking at.
On the far right, in the other figural group slightly behind the action, are the three Marys supporting the Virgin Mary, who has fainted (a controversial depiction known as the Swoon of the Virgin) most likely due to her overwhelming grief. The way in which the Virgin is kneeling is excessively awkward, with extreme torsion and sharply cut drapery, also known as a figura serpentinata. Though seen in other famous works, her positioning seems to have been directly inspired by the example of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, completed only a few years earlier. In terms of colour, Raphael balances his use of strong reds, blues, yellows and greens and he creates subtle contrast in his flesh tones, best seen with the living Mary Magdalene’s holding of the dead Christ’s hand.
This Oil on panel, 32 x 41 cm painting was made by Rembrandt circa 1635.
This moving painting is an almost monochrome oil painting from Rembrandt’s early years in Amsterdam. It shows the burial of Christ taking place deep inside the rock tomb, by torchlight. It was a personal work which the artist kept in his living room, and he seems to have painted it as an example of his skill in painting devotional works.