This panel presents the scene of the resurrection of Christ carved in low-relief. This episode follows the narrative of the Passion. The Resurrection is a major element of the Christian dogma and is at the center of theological questionings. This event is told by each Gospel although the story changes a little from one text to another. Three days after the burial of Christ’s body the holy women (whose number fluctuates) went to the tomb and found it empty. To emphasize the miraculous nature of the event Matthew specifies that Roman soldiers were guarding the place (Matthew 27, 62-66). Artists depictions of the scene have varied a lot. The iconography of our sculpture appears during the late 10th century and spreads around the 13th century thanks to German and Italian artists. Christ is figured in full glory, crowned by a radiant halo. The beard is small and the forehead strong, his eyes looking towards the observer he seems to bless with his right hand. His body is half covered by a red cloak floating away in a circular movement. His exposed chest manifests the reality and vitality of his resurrected body. The signs of the Passion, the spear’s wound on his stomach and the nail’s on his left foot are still visible. This dynamic is balanced by the stillness of Christ’s posture and the serene expression of his face at the center of the panel. He dominates the observer as much as he dominates the sleeping soldiers both through his size and through his calm authority. He is stepping out of his tomb, walking on the soldier who is on his way. In the sky appear six winged angel heads. The radiating halo of Christ is similar to a rising sun.
Eight soldiers still half asleep surrounds the tomb. They are slowly awaking and discover not without surprise the miracle that has taken place. One of them looks at Christ with his mouth wide open in awe. Two other ones still doubting look inside the tomb. The rest of the soldiers are still sleeping, their halberds and spears pointing up to the sky. In the background we can notice a rocky landscape lush with trees. The soldiers’ armours, their expressive faces and the movement of Christ’s cloak suggest this sculpture was made during the 16th century. Those same clues allow us to think the panel was executed by an artist from Southern Germany. This panel probably took place in a larger series depicting the episodes of the life and Passion of Christ.
François Boespflug, Emanuela Fogliadini, Ressuscité, la Résurrection du Christ dans l’art, MAME, 2016
Louis Réau, Iconographie de l’art chrétien, II/2, Presse Universitaire de France, 1957, p. 538-550