BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The Transfiguration; Lorenzo LOTTO; 1510-12 oil on wood; Pinacoteca Comunale, Recanati, Italy

Web Gallery of Art



The  Transfiguration 




What you can see in this picture……

Two groups of three men; the former stands out against the sky; the men are standing on the summit of a mountain; the latter group is made up of men lying or rather thrown down on the ground.

Jesus, surrounded by Moses and Elijah, is “transfigured”, suffused with light coming from Heaven and acknowledged as Son of God by a celestial voice that here takes the shape of a written text. On the left, Moses recognizable by the tables of the Law and on the right, the prophet Elijah, bend the knee before Christ whom they acknowledge to be God.

The three men on the ground are the apostles, Peter recognizable by his keys, John always young and beardless and James without any distinguishing sign. They have been thrown down and they protect their eyes from the light coming from Christ.



and in other pictures

Christ is always in the centre in the higher part; a strong light seems to radiate from his person. In Romanesque bas-reliefs, it takes the form of a “mandorla” or “almond” in which Jesus is engraved.

Moses and Elijah are on each side of Christ; they represent the Law and the Prophets. Moses is traditionally recognizable with his two “horns”, Elijah often bears a roll of his writings. Their representations are sometimes limited to their heads or their busts.

In the lower part, three apostles, Peter, John and James, are flattened on the ground but Peter raises his head. They form a sort of pyramid that may seem close to the one they form in the Garden of Olives, just before Jesus’ arrest (see the Garden of Olives). In Romanesque bas-reliefs, as there is a lack of space at the bottom, the apostles are put on the extreme borders on the sides.

The two groups are separated by a grassy surface; this is the summit of Mount Thabor but it is sometimes hidden by the clouds enveloping Jesus and from which comes the voice of God.



It should not be confused with



The Ascension ; Jean COLOMBE ; 1485-89, illuminated manuscript from the « Hours of the Duke of Berry »; Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

 Christus Rex


The Ascension

As here, Jesus is elevated above the ground where his disciples are, but this is the Ascension; he is by himself and the crowd at his feet are numerous.

 (See the Ascension)



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

 CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum


The risen Christ

The risen Christ is represented as he is going up above a crowd, but the latter are composed of soldiers guarding the tomb; moreover Christ often holds the Easter banner.

(See the Resurrection of Christ)





The Transfiguration; Lorenzo LOTTO; 1510-12 oil on wood; Pinacoteca Comunale, Recanati, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


The  Transfiguration 

The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 9

Jesus has just announced that some disciples will see the Kingdom of God

he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his garment was white and glistering.
And, behold, there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
But Peter and th ose that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

 Peter proposes to pitch tents for the three men.

While he thus spoke, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered the cloud.
And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying: "This is my beloved Son: hear him."  
(Luke 9:28-35)



At his baptism, Jesus is designated by God as the Messiah, but this time he is with Moses and Elijah, the two great representatives of the Law and the Prophets. See the Baptism of Christ

And with Peter, James and John who will be the witnesses of his death in the Garden of Olives as if they had to prepare themselves to recognize the luminous face of the transfigured Christ under the features of the crucified Jesus. See the Garden of Olives





The  Transfiguration 


The Transfiguration; Lorenzo LOTTO; 1510-12 oil on wood; Pinacoteca Comunale, Recanati, Italy

Web Gallery of Art


The composition places Christ more or less high; Titian’s low angle shot is remarkable and adapted to the vault of a church.


The Transfiguration of Christ; Giovanni BELLINI; c.1487; oil on wood; Museo e Galleria Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

Web Gallery of Art



The Transfiguration; Titian; 1560; altarpiece of the high altar; church of San Salvador, Venice

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists


Elijah and Moses are hardly differentiated in David whereas the illuminated manuscript gives to each of them their respective attributes: the tables and horns to Moses, the roll of prophetic words to Elijah. They are on equal terms with Christ or, on the contrary, reduced to secondary figures, especially when is added God the Father who recognizes His son in Jesus.


The Transfiguration of Christ; Gerard DAVID; 1520; oil on panel; De Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Brugge, Belgium

Web Gallery of Art



after The Transfiguration; 14th century; illuminated manuscript from the “small hours of Jean de Berry”; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris


This composition represents two scenes taking place at the same time.

To the classical scene, Raphael adds another one covering more than half the painting.

The apostles have remained at the bottom of the mountain and are trying to heal an epileptic child but they get no success. They will have to wait until the return of Jesus for the child to be cured. This narrative follows that of the Transfiguration in the Gospel according to Luke.


The Transfiguration; RAPHAEL; 1520; oil on panel; Pinacoteca, Vatican

 CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum






BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008