BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Raising of Lazarus; Juan de Flandes; panel; Museo del Prado, Madrid

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The Raising of Lazarus



Lazarus comes out of his tomb; around him one can generally see two groups: Jesus and his disciples, and two women, Martha and Mary, who are Lazarus’ sisters.

Jesus holds out his hand while he commands Lazarus to come out; he sometimes holds a thaumaturgic rod like Moses. His disciples are listening to him and remain passive whereas the women are weeping and kneeling or prostrate. It is normally Martha, Lazarus’ sister, who intervenes most with Jesus. But Mary, the other sister, being according to the tradition identified with Mary Magdalene and with the sinning woman of the banquet at Simon’s house, is often in a prominent position.

The scene takes place in the open air, in the countryside or in front of a house. Some spectators put their hands before their faces to indicate, as the text does, that the corpse already stinks.

The evolution of the representation mainly concerns Lazarus’ tomb. One goes from an Oriental vision with a tomb actually dug out in the rock and Lazarus wrapped in bandages but standing, to a sarcophagus whose lid is lifted while Lazarus rises and draws aside his shroud. It is to be noted that he is small sized for he is like a child who has been reborn to a new life. Risen Lazarus is looking at Jesus or he stands as if struck with astonishment.

The complete narrative is rather difficult to represent for there are several places and movements. One finds cycles depicting the different scenes as in a comic strip but the most frequently represented scene is that of the raising itself.



It should not be  confused with



The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter; Ilia REPIN; 1871; oil on canvas; Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

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Two other scenes of raising from the dead can bring some confusion:

The Raising of Jairus’daughter. A leading citizen of Capharnaum has a 12-year old daughter; at his demand Jesus raises her to life, “the maid is not dead, but sleeping ” (Matthew 9:24)



The Raising of the widow’s son at Naim. Jesus comes across a funereal procession near the city of Naim. When he learns they are burying a widow’s only son, he commands him to “wake up” (Luke 7:12-16).

In both cases the dead are young and are not yet buried.


Jesus raises the Widow’s Son; Julius Schnorr CAROLSFELD; 1850, engraving from “Bibel in Bildern”.

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The Raising of Lazarus; Juan de Flandes; panel; Museo del Prado, Madrid

Web Gallery of Art


The Raising of Lazarus


The Gospel according to John, chapter 11

Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary live at Bethany; they are Jesus’ friends. Lazarus is ill and Jesus is called and runs up to them but too late. Martha asks Jesus to give life to her brother and proclaims her faith:

" Yea, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself came to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said : "Take away the stone !" The sister of him that was dead, said to him : "Lord, by this time he stinks: for he has been dead four days."  Jesus said to her : "Did not I say to you, that, if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?" Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said:

"Father, I thank you that you have heard me. … I said it, that they may believe that you have sent me."

And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice : "Lazarus, come forth !" And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them : "Loose him, and let him go." (John 11:27 + 11:38-44)



The Raising of Lazarus is a “sign” by which Jesus announces he is the new life. But it is a simple return to life and therefore quite different from the Resurrection of Christ.






The Raising of Lazarus




The Raising of Lazarus; Juan de Flandes; panel; Museo del Prado, Madrid

Web Gallery of Art


A representation faithful to the text: the tomb in a grotto, the dead man wrapped in bandages.


The Raising of Lazarus; 1500-25; miniature on vellum from a Book of Hours of the diocese of Liège; manuscript KB 133 D 11; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.




The Raising of Lazarus; GIOTTO di Bondone; 1305; fresco; Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, Italy

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Here, on the contrary, Lazarus rises from the ground like the dead in the representations of the Last Judgement.


The Raising of Lazarus; 1425-75; miniature on vellum from a Book of hours of the North of France; manuscript KB 76 F 11; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague




The Raising of Lazarus; 1490-1500; miniature on vellum from a Flemish Book oh Hours; manuscript KB 133 D 18; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague



These representations put forward the crowd of witnesses; but what a difference in the treatment of Lazarus: one is an animated corpse; the other is reborn to life like a child.


The Raising of Lazarus; Sebastiano del PIOMBO; c. 1517-19; oil on panel transferred to canvas; National Gallery, London.

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The Raising of Lazarus; Jan VERMEYEN; oil on wood; Triptych of the Micault Family; Royal Museums of Fine Arts; Brussels.

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What a difference between those who put into emphasis the gesture and the words of Jesus and the one who eliminates Christ.


The Raising of Lazarus; after William BLAKE; drawing and watercolour whose original is in Aberdeen Museum; Tate Collection, London.

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The Raising of Lazarus; REMBRANDT; 1630; oil on panel; County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

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The Raising of Lazarus; Vincent Van GOGH after REMBRANDT; 1890; oil on canvas; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

In secula





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008