Title: The Dead Appear in
Artist: James Tissot
Medium: Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Size: 27.6 x 19 cm
Date: c. 1890
Matthew 27:50-54: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"
To both pagan and Jewish audiences these signs would indicate divine approval of Jesus and disapproval of his executioners. The raising of dead persons at Jesus' death reminds us that by refusing to save himself, Jesus did save others. Yet by mentioning only “many” of the saints, Matthew clearly intends this sign merely to prefigure the final resurrection, proleptically signified in Jesus' death and resurrection
James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 15, 1836 – August 8, 1902) was a French painter. To the surprise of all his friends, he suddenly found religion in his late 40s and decided to tell the story of Christ's passion in 350 illustrations. He conceived them not only in the realist style, but in the Orientalist idiom of Gérôme and Fromentin. The guiding intellectual force behind the images was Ernest Renan, whose "Vie de Jésus" (1863), one of the most influential books of the 19th century, who undertook to track down "the historical Jesus." The point of Tissot's watercolors was not to diminish Christ, as critics alleged, but rather to make him acceptable to that part of contemporary culture that could no longer accept Christ through the gauze of scriptural authority, that had to see him face to face.