Dandelion Art – Week 8
Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear your recommendations.
In the week leading up to Easter Sunday (Holy Week) it seems apposite to look at one of Raphael's earliest known works depicting the resurrection of Christ.
Resurrection of Christ by Raphael
c 1499-1502, Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil
Every painting tells a story and in The Resurrection of Christ, the great artist Raphael, tells spiritual truths in visual form. Painted in oil on wood (and believed once to be part of an altar piece) this masterpiece was painted over several years and is crammed full of Christian iconography:
THE SYMBOLIC ELEMENTS
Triumphant Christ in the centre carrying his standard blowing in the wind. The white symbolises peace, purity and innocence and the red cross his blood. His red robe, also symbolic of blood, is embroidered with gold along the edge which is a device that Renaissance painters used to designate Jesus post-resurrection. He hovers in the air above his tomb – emphasising to his divinity.
The river at the base of the hills is a reminder of baptism (in baptism believers participate in Christ's death and resurrection).
The slithering snake in the foreground on the left, at the foot of the sarcophagus signifies that Christ's resurrection has defeated Satan (he no longer holds any power). [Genesis 3]
The small, white crane on the right hand side of the painting symbolises: endurance (because of the crane's long migration patterns); resurrection (because cranes reappear each spring) and Satan's defeat (because cranes kill snakes).
Clear, even light and the sun rising over the hill indicates that night (death) is over.
The three women walking up the path to the grave illustrate when Mary Magdalane, Mary the mother of James and Salome took spices to anoint Jesus's body. [Mark 16]
Four guards at the four corners – two fallen and two standing with their hands raised in different directions signifies that the resurrected christ will be drawing together believers from the four corners of the earth. [Isaiah 11]
The three squares on the front of the sarcophagus symbolise the Trinity.
The two angels (messengers of God) framing Jesus are there to proclaim his resurrection (as they were his birth). Each has a hand raised in blessing, mimicking the hand gesture of Christ. [Matthew]
THE PERFECT EXECUTION
Raphael was a master of compositional form and balance. The figure of Christ is quite literally in the centre of the painting – his feet being the centre point with a balanced composition around him (the four guards circling him and the angels either side). Mastery of perspective is a hallmark of the Renaissance. Raphael makes use of the aerial perspective – this is when an artist paints in shades of blue to indicated that the is receding into the distance. In addition, the road to the left of the painting narrows as it winds up the hill – also indicating depth and distance. The lid of the sarcophagus is open on a diagonal demonstrating Raphael's understanding of foreshortening and his ability to use a variety of perspectives.
The angels are clothed in rich-coloured robes that drape their bodies and billow in the wind giving a sense of movement to the image. Their faces (along with other faces in the painting) are idealised – showing an idea of loveliness. The goal of Renaissance painters was to paint an ideal and this is particularly true in the case of religious paintings with a theme of the resurrection.In the light of the resurrection all of creation has been transfigured – made beautiful.
Anya Waddington 29 March 2021