PICTURES OF THE BIBLE  © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb; Fra ANGELICO; 1440-41 fresco; convento di San Marco, Florence

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The Resurrection  of Christ




Four women arrive before a sarcophagus to put spices and embalm the body of the dead Christ.

The first one, Mary Magdalene leans over the open tomb which should be closed, but it is empty.

An angel sitting on the edge tells them that Jesus is risen and, at the top, one can see the materialisation of his account. Jesus is standing with the palm and the flag of victory in his hand. On the left, a friar prays but he is not a witness, only St Dominic in prayer to invite the spectator to do the same.



The representation of the empty tomb is the oldest representation of the Resurrection of Christ.

The number of women varies from 2 to 4: Mary Magdalene, who sometimes faints, Mary the mother of James, Mary Salome, sometimes Mary, the mother of Jesus. They carry perfumes and spices to prepare the dead body.

The one who welcomes them is a man dressed in white or an angel but there can be several ones. He (or they) explains to the women why the tomb is empty.



The evolution of the representation

With the gradual representation of the person of Christ, Christian art has turned from the symbolic to realism, from the implicit to the explicit.



Chrism of the church of Coli, valley of Boi, Catalona



The symbolic resurrection confines itself to the bare cross or to the monogram XR, the first two letters of the Name CHRist in Greek; only the guards mentioned by Matthew are present.


The Resurrection; Piero della FRANCESCA; 1463-65; fresco; Pinacoteca Comunale, Sansepolcro, Italy.

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After the 11th century, the symbol changed into factual reality in spite of the difficulty to represent the risen Christ coming out of his tomb.

A regular evolution can be noticed but Christ is always standing; which corresponds very well to the idea of resurrection. He is at first erect in his tomb, then he puts his foot on the edge; he soon steps over it and stands before the sarcophagus; then on the lid.

Such an event requires some spectators, the original guards and the watchers multiply with reactions of fright or they are completely thrown over by the blast.


The Resurrection of Christ; Jacopo TINTORETTO; 1565; oil on canvas; San Cassiano, Venice.


The Resurrection of Christ; REMBRANDT; 1635-39; oil on canvas; Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich

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In Fra Angelico, the risen Christ is already floating in the air above the tomb, but it is only an invocation by the angel, who is invisible to the women.


On the contrary, Tintoretto makes him shoot out like a rocket visible to all.



Rembrandt, more influenced by the modesty of the Protestant Reformation, replaces Christ by an explosion of light guided by the angel of God.


Thus one can find all the elements of the theophany or classical divine manifestation.







The Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb; Fra ANGELICO; 1440-41 fresco; convento di San Marco, Florence

Web Gallery of Art


The Resurrection  of Christ

The Gospel according to Mark chapter 16

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came to the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre for us?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great  And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were frightened. And he said to them, Do not be frightened: You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you into Galilee: there you shall see him, as he said to you.

And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither did they say any thing to any man; for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8)





The narrative of the discovery of the empty tomb by the women on Easter morning asserts that Jesus lives beyond death. The disappearance of his corpse cannot be explained by a theft but by a bodily transformation. Christ will appear in Galilee, the place of the mission among the pagans.






The Resurrection  of Christ


The Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb; Fra ANGELICO; 1440-41 fresco; convento di San Marco, Florence

Web Gallery of Art


To the three women before the empty tomb, Jordaens adds Peter and the Apostle John who comforts Mary Magdalene.


John, Peter and Mary Magdalene at the open tomb of Christ; 1372; miniature from the “Historial Bible” by Petrus Comestor; manuscript MMW 10 B 23; Museum Meermanno




The Holy Women at the Sepulchre; Jacob JORDAENS; oil on canvas; Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.

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Two views of the tomb open to nature or sunken in the rock.

Mary Magdalene always discovers the shroud and the empty tomb, but in Gill, she has no need for the angel.


The Resurrection; Eric GILL; 1917; printed relief.

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The Marys at the Tomb; an imitator of MANTEGNA; oil on wood; National Gallery, London.

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The joy of he angels announcing the news of Christ’s resurrection to the three Mary’s; Mary Magdalene’s fright in front of Christ.


The Three Marys at the tomb; LE BACICCIO; c. 1685; oil on canvas; National Gallery, London.

Fitz museum Cambridge





The Morning of the Resurrection; Edward BURNE-JONES; 1886; oil on wood; Tate Collection, London.

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The representation is previous to the women’s visit to the empty tomb. The soldiers are asleep and the victorious Christ carrying the banner rises from the stone tomb without any witness.


The Resurrection; Hans MEMLING; c. 1490; oil on wood; Louvre Museum, Paris.

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The Resurrection; c. 1450; painted drawing from “Speculum Humanae Salvationis” of Cologne; manuscript MMW 10 B 34; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.



The tomb has disappeared. For El Greco, the resurrection is a sort of explosion overthrowing the soldiers and making the victorious Christ appear suddenly. In Titian, Christ literally takes his flight above a stupefied soldier.


The Resurrection; El GRECO; 1596-1610; oil on canvas; altarpiece of Dona Maria College, Toledo, Spain.

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The Resurrection; TITIAN; 1520; oil on canvas; Santi Nazaro e Celso, Brescia, Italy

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A resurrection in the tomb grotto. In Benvenuto di Giovanni, it is a mere vertical sarcophagus whose door falls down. In Altdorfer, the blast is material at the bottom and spiritual at the top.


The Resurrection of Christ; Albrecht ALTDORFER; 1527; tempera on wood; Kunstmuseum, Basle, Swizerland.

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The Resurrection; Benvenuto di GIOVANNI; c. 1490; tempera on panel; National Gallery of Art, Washington.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.






The Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb; Fra ANGELICO; 1440-41 fresco; convento di San Marco, Florence

Web Gallery of Art


The Resurrection  of Christ


The Christian celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ is rooted in the Jewish feast of Pessah or Passover which commemorates the liberation from the bondage in Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds. This is the reason why the Christian Easter is celebrated according to the Jewish lunar calendar at the full moon following the spring equinox.

Each week, the Sunday recalls Easter.

The Jewish week ends with the Sabbath, the seventh day. The first day of the week, the day of the sun, Sunday or German Sonntag will become for Christians the day of the Lord, dies dominica en Latin, from it French dimanche and Italian domenica.



Celebrating Easter

Easter eggs offered to children, decorated and concealed. This custom has probably various origins; one can see in it a symbol of the new life, at the same time linked to spring and to the Resurrection. In the same way as a small flower (the daisy) blossoming at that moment bears the pretty name of “pâquerette”.

Today theses eggs are mainly in chocolate but, in addition, bells, hens and rabbits can be found. The presence of these eggs in the garden or in the nooks and corners of the house has to be explained so that, in some regions, they are said to be brought by the bells coming back from Rome (they have not rung since Maundy Thursday) or by the Easter hen and, in Germanic regions, by the Easter Bunny. The fish that is also sold has nothing to do with the Christian symbol but recalls that of April 1st, that is sometimes near.

Carte postale de 1908

A Ukrainian Easter egg


Easter bells: a post card of 1908.



Easter Monday

Formerly, the week after Easter was a week of rest and feasting. Easter Monday is a bank holiday in France as a remnant and some countries keep the tradition of holidays at that time of the year. This period of spring is also favourable to renovation and the spring cleaning took place during those days; the cleaning has been maintained but has tended to be brought forward before Easter so that everything should be beautiful for the feast.





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008