Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Resurrection of Jesus

This 1424 image is by Master Francke, a German Gothic painter. It shows Christ emerging from His stone tomb, surrounded by drowsy guardsmen.

The style of the painting is idealistic, but with a sense of caricature, especially of the guards around the tomb. Heads are made large for their bodies, and the faces are grotesque and distorted.

In the center of the painting, we see a tomb that looks more like a standard coffin than the traditional cave-like structure we’re familiar with. Christ has His back to the viewers, one leg over the edge of the tomb. He’s draped in a triumphant red cloak, and holds a scepter bearing a red banner and capped with a gold cross. His halo is nothing but a thin circle around His head; it uses the golden morning light in the background as its coloring. Though we can only see the top half of Christ’s face, His eye and eyebrow convey a sense of strength and determination.

Against the horizon stand brown rocky cliffs and evergreen trees. They are simply crafted, and are designed to lead the eye back to the main action.

In the foreground we see about ten of the grotesque guards, all dressed in bright and diverse clothing, and completely surrounding the tomb. Many of them carry spears or swords. While some of their faces are hidden in their sleep, others seem just about to open their eyes and catch sight of the escaping figure of Christ.

The image lacks realistic perspective, and seems to crawl up rather than back into space. The general composition of the image presses flat against the viewing plane, and uses the triangular shape of the guards, the tomb, and Christ Himself to point directly to Christ’s face.

What is the artist trying to show us with this image? Jesus isn’t here to just stare back at us: He has places to go. Whether it’s over the hills we see in the background, or past the edge of the painting, He is headed out to complete His mission. His stare also seems to fall on the sleeping and inattentive men around Him, too distracted to notice the glorious event they might have been a part of. Whatever we do, we certainly should not be like the passive soldiers in this painting. I think they are representative of, not those who are purely evil, but those who simply take no notice of the Christian life, like in the parable when the seed falls upon the path.

This painting can be seen as a call to action: to get behind Christ and follow Him into eternity. We’ve witnessed His triumph over death, and now we can walk away from those who are spiritually asleep, and wake up to new life.

This paper was written for my Visual Art and the Catholic Imagination college course. All necessary editing and formatting liberties were taken to present this text.