Saturday, April 2, 2011

Entombment of Christ

Title: Entombment of Christ
Artist: Rogier van der Weyden
Medium: Oil on oak panel
Size: 110 x 96 cm
Date: 1450
Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

John 19:41-42 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

This painting, in a Renaissance frame decorated with pilasters, adorned the altar of the private chapel of the Medici villa in Careggi, near Florence, and there are good reasons to suppose that the Medici family commissioned it. The work closely follows the Entombment of Christ by Fra Angelico, painted around 1440 for the Florentine monastery church of San Marco. Its influence is evident in the display of the dead Christ, shown almost standing, with Mary and John holding his arms one on each side, and more particularly in the hill with the tomb in the rock, which runs entirely counter to Northern European tradition. Clear guidelines from his patrons would also explain why the painting was executed in almost square format, unusual for Netherlandish works but common in Italy and suitable for the architectural Renaissance setting. The patrons who commissioned the work would have been struck by the fine, realistic detail of the painting and the intense emotion of the faces. These qualities, and the slight asymmetry that suited late Gothic taste, distinguish the picture in significant respects from the work of Fra Angelico.

Rogier van der Weyden or Rogier de le Pasture (c. 1399 – June 1464) was an early Netherlandish painter. His surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. Little is known about Rogier's training as a painter. The archival sources from Tournai were completely destroyed during World War II, but had been partly transcribed in the 19th and early 20th century. The sources on his early life are confusing and have led to different interpretations by scholars. His vigorous, subtle, expressive painting and popular religious conceptions had considerable influence on European painting, not only in France and Germany but also in Italy and in Spain. Van der Weyden had also a large influence on the German painter and engraver Martin Schongauer whose prints were distributed all over Europe from the last decades of the 15th century. Indirectly Schongauer's prints helped to disseminate Van der Weyden's style. As can be seen in existing paintings attributed to him, Rogier van der Weyden was a master in the depiction of emotions and grief.

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