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Easter Sunday

The Resurrection: the greatest proof of God’s Mercy

Many artists have wished to represent this extraordinary event that involved the entire universe and have left us important masterpieces.

Cristo-resurrezione-piero-dopo-il-restauroThe English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley (1894/1963) went so far as to define, in 1924, Piero della Francesca’s Resurrection of Christ as ‘the most beautiful painting in the world’. This work, executed between 1463 and 1468, is preserved in the Museo Civico in Sansepolcro, where the Italian painter and mathematician was born and died (1416/1492). Austen Henry Layard, a British diplomat and art critic of the 1800s, says that the Christ depicted is “endowed with a terrifying and unearthly majesty in his demeanour, in his large eyes fixed in the void, and in his features, in spite of them, relaxed”.

Resurrezione_Piero_della_Francesca_post_restauroThe figure of the Risen One stands erect, with one foot resting on the edge of the sarcophagus, to emphasise his exit from the tomb, from death to life. Solemn and hieratic, he shows his physically perfect body, no longer tortured, but with the marks of the nails and the side, while holding the crusader banner, emblem of his triumph. Jesus is at the centre of the composition and divides the landscape behind him into two parts, on the left wintry and dying and on the right lush and summery. The line of the horizon, in the sky shaded as if during dawn, highlights Jesus’ shoulders and head, with his inexpressiveness, a sign of strength, against the discordance of feelings. Four Roman soldiers sleep at the foot of the sarcophagus, a sign of contrast between sleep, human and earthly weakness, and the vigilance of the divinity that always keeps watch. All the characters are enchained by a clear, diurnal and diffuse light, where all movement is eliminated because immobility, for the author, is a sign of immutability and therefore of perfection. Colour is the medium that allows light to form volumes, and we find it skilfully used, as in all his works. Here, everything is subjected to very studied correspondences and inversions. Even the chiaroscuro does not respond to the rules of the known pictorial tradition, but the shadows become areas of colour, which, due to their position, reflect a minimal amount of light that accentuates the majesty and sacredness of the scene.

Peter.and.John.Running.BurnandHaving heard of the resurrection, the apostles Peter and John ran quickly to the tomb that morning. Eugene Burnand (1850/1921), a well-known Swiss Protestant painter, grasped the importance of this moment and translated it into a marvellous work of 1898, now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Here the young John in his white tunic, symbol of the resurrection, and a mature Peter, his face marked by deep wrinkles, run towards the same direction: the tomb. The apostles appear as two simple people, wearing no sign of glory, and together they run towards the truth. Defying the usual traditions, the author has placed the tomb outside the limits of the painting, while the remains of the three crosses are barely visible in the distance. Two elements are decisive: air and light.

Pietro-e-Giovanni-corrono-al-Sepolcro-vuoto-E.-Burnand-1850-1921The air musses the hair of John, who is running just ahead of Peter, who with his right hand almost holds back his cloak, his hair also moved by the fresh morning air. John’s joined hands, Peter’s hand on his heart and their faces so expressive, describe all the anxiety, the hope in the miracle, the possible disappointment. The anguish of probable failure, the desire to see him again, all the tumult of emotions is admirably expressed in this masterpiece. It is the light of the golden dawn that accompanies the apostles as they run towards their goal and is reflected in the pupils of their eyes.

Resurrezione Michelangelo-PrimoAdmiring a masterpiece often leaves us speechless, just as few words can express the greatness of a genius like Michelangelo Buonarroti.  He too was commissioned a Christ the Redeemer by Metello Vari, to be placed in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. The work, more than two metres high, was begun by the artist with great eagerness, but as he sculpted the face, a dark vein emerged in the marble that disfigured the face. Michelangelo left to work on this block, which was probably finished many years after it was found, by a very young Bernini and, in 1519/20, he devoted himself to a new version.

resurrezione-Cristo_della_Minerva_2010_2This statue also turned out to be unsuitable for the master’s idea, who offered to make a third. The patrons, however, were ‘satisfied’ with the first two. The second statue was therefore placed in the basilica on 27 December 1521. The upright Christ, modelled like a Greek statue, leans on a large cross with both hands and holds some instruments of his Passion. He turns his gaze to the opposite side and softly twists his chest, while his right leg advances for a more stable posture. Anatomically perfect, after the Council of Trent however, the nudity of the body was covered by a gilded bronze drapery. The entire figure shows that Renaissance balance and solemnity worthy of that glorious, triumphant body that majestically turns its gaze to the other side of the cross, towards infinity, towards eternity, towards the resurrection of all mankind, forever the object of God’s mercy.michelangelo-cristo-risorto

                                                                              Paola Carmen Salamino


  • Paola Carmen Salamino


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