Rembrandt Van Rijn
Rogier Van Der Weiden
Piero De La Francesca
Carl Heinrich Bloch
Hidden Meanings in paintings of the Resurrection
The open tomb symbolises triumph over death; Christ's Resurrection is one of the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. Christ returned to life and remained here on earth until the Ascension. Since no-one actually saw his resurrection, Christians relied on the experiences of the disciples for confirmation that the event took place.
Christ is shown unclothed, since only the shroud covered him in the tomb.
The women disciples were first on the scene, so paintings often show the 'Noli me tangere' scene with Mary Magdalene, and the holy women at the sepulchre.
Paintings from 14th and 15th century Italy often show an apparently weightless figure of Christ floating in the air, perhaps framed by rays of light which give the appearance of an Ascension.
But the predominant type, originating in the later Middle Ages and followed by the Renaissance, shows the Saviour firmly on the ground, holding the banner of the Resurrection with its red cross, either standing upright in the open sarcophagus or in the act of stepping out of it.
The Council of Trent, which demanded a return to scriptural accuracy, disapproved both of the open tomb and of the floating figure; from the second half of the 16th century therefore it is more usual to see Christ standing before a closed tomb.
Matthew, alone among the gospels, mentions the soldiers that Pilate put to guard the tomb. The passage seems to have been introduced by the evangelist to refute the charge made by Jews in his day that the disciples secretly removed the body. The soldiers are generally recumbent around the tomb, either in attitudes of sleep, or awake and shading their eyes from the dazzling light that surrounds Christ.
The Bible text - four Gospel accounts of the Resurrecton
Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples: `He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.
When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,
telling them, "You are to say, `His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'
If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble."
So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Gospel of Mark, chapter 16
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body.
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb
and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Gospel of Luke, chapter 23 & 24
Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"
Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Gospel of John, chapter 20
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.
Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.
Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,
as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.
Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
Then the disciples went back to their homes,
but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb
and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him."
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.