Vita Gazette

News from Italy

Easter artwork

Vita gazette – Easter is the leading Christian holiday and contains within itself the mystery of faith: from the Passion of Christ, which frees man from original sin, up to his Resurrection, revelation of the destiny of humanity awaiting the Last Judgment. Holy Week marks the stages of the liturgy, which recalls and relives the torture of the son of God up to the prefiguration of the advent of the Kingdom of God. The works on Easter to the greatest Italian painters and artists: From Raphael to Caravaggio, passing through Giotto and Andrea Mantegna, this is how the great Masters celebrated the victory of the Risen One over death.

Raffaello Sanzio, Resurrection of Christ

Jesus is in the upper part of the scene, in the centre of the composition. Below him is a sarcophagus decorated with golden dolphins. The men guarding the tomb cannot believe their eyes, and their amazement is such that they assume frightened positions in front of the vision of Christ in heaven. The latter, on the contrary, has a calm expression. The work is characterised by an excellent geometric composition: the central rectangle of the tomb expands into a larger one that also includes the four guardians. The diagonal position of the sarcophagus lid traces lines that unite the characters in the lower part of the composition. There is a vertical rhythm in the scene, which ends with the figure of Christ, supported by the gestures of the guardians and angels (as if everything were a single movement)

The arrangement of the characters is such as to give the illusion that the space is much larger. Look at Guardian standing right in the background. It is in a particular position: one leg is backward, with the opposite arm it points upwards, and the head is turned towards Christ. With all these details, he brings our attention back to the work’s protagonist, Jesus. Raphael proposes an ancient, static representation of Christ, similar to those in the early Christian era.

Giotto, Resurrection and Noli me tangere

The art of the cycle of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. It is included in the Stories of the Passion of Jesus in the lower central register, on the left wall looking towards the altar.

The scene shows a double episode: on the left, the empty tomb of Christ with seated angels and sleeping guards testify to the Resurrection; on the right, the Magdalene kneeling in front of the apparition of Christ triumphant over death, complete with a Crusader banner, and the gesture of the Savior who tells her not to touch it by pronouncing, in the Latin versions of the Gospels, the phrase Noli me tangere. The rocks in the background slope towards the left, where the central nucleus of the episode takes place. Unlike those in the previous Lamentation, the trees are dry on the left (ideally “before” the resurrection), while on the right, they are lush again; the trees on the left are damaged by time and not very legible. The episode is characterised by a rarefied and suspended atmosphere of “metaphysical abstraction” in which anticipation of Piero della Francesca is seen.

Leonardo’s Last Supper

The “Cenacolo” is a wall painting, dated 1494-1498 and preserved in the former Renaissance refectory of the convent adjacent to the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It is considered Leonardo’s masterpiece and is one of the most important and significant works of the entire Italian Renaissance.

The Flagellation by Caravaggio

The “Flagellation of Christ” is an oil on canvas painted by Caravaggio between 1607 and 1608. Exhibited and preserved in the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, it focuses on the column to which Christ is tied, with three torturers surrounding him. The fluid movement of the Savior contrasts with the dry and rough gestures of the torturers. The naturalistic rendering marks a new path in human representation. The theatrical light blocks the event with enormous drama.

Giotto’s Crucifixion

“Ascent to Calvary” is a fresco by Giotto from 1303-1305. Contained in the cycle of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, it is part of the “Stories of the Passion of Jesus”. In the scene we notice the angels who despair over the terrible event and, tearing their clothes, collect the blood of Christ, while the Magdalene kisses his feet. A group of women supports the Madonna, who faints, while some soldiers collect relics. Adam’s skull, bathed in blood, marks redemption from Original Sin.

Masaccio’s Trinity

The fresco, created by Masaccio in 1426-28 and placed in the basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is a work that starts the Renaissance in painting and was produced by the very young painter shortly before his death at the age of 27. Giorgio Vasari wrote in this regard: “What is beautiful, in addition to the figures, is a half-barrel vault drawn in perspective, and divided into squares full of rosettes that diminish and escort so well that it seems that that wall is pierced”.

The Deposition of Caravaggio

Oil on canvas by Caravaggio, the “Deposition” can be dated 1602-04 and is kept in the Vatican Pinacoteca. The scene is that of the deposition in the sepulcher of the dead Christ. The quotation from Michelangelo’s Pietà, especially in the dangling arm, is a tribute to the great Florentine sculptor. Many details are masterfully painted: the wrinkles, the clothes with their folds, the knot of the funeral sheet, the braids in the hair of one of the Marys, the wounds of Jesus, as well as his muscles and bone structure, indexes of the powerful naturalism of Caravaggio. The dramatic and heartbreaking gestures of the characters involve the observers following the “theory of affects”.

Giotto’s Lamentation

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Giotto is a fresco from 1303-1305, also part of the cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. This is the most dramatic scene of the cycle, perhaps the most famous. Mary holds Jesus in her arms and brings her face closer to that of her son. The pious women hold the hands of the deceased Christ, while the lamenting Magdalene holds his feet. In addition to St. John and the figures of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, there are women who run weeping. Even the angels participate in a cosmic desperation.

Mantegna’s Dead Christ

Also known as the “Lamento sul Cristo morto”, the “Dead Christ” by Mantegna is a very famous work, tempera on canvas, from 1475-78, kept in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. The perspective is revolutionary: the spectator looks at the reclining Christ starting from the feet. Expressive and composed at the same time, it is an experimental work of enormous emotional impact. Three grieving figures on the left: Mary wiping away her tears, St. John in tears and, in the background, what one imagines to be the Magdalene. What makes the construction of the image even more pathetic is the strong contrast between light and shadow.

Michelangelo’s Pieta

The “Vatican Pietà” is the only sculpture that we have examined. The greatest work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, it is dated 1497-99 and is located in the basilica of San Pietro in Rome. The barely twenty-year-old Michelangelo sculpted one of the prodigies of universal art, his only signed work. The figure of Christ lying on the knees of the Virgin is fluid and soft, composed and profound at the same time. A strong sense of intimacy is expressed by the very young and sorrowful Madonna who invites us to meditate on the representation with a gesture. The smoothness and softness of the Savior’s forms are deeply naturalistic and equal to those of a wax statue.

The Resurrection by Titian

Contained in the Averoldi Polyptych, in the collegiate church of Santi Nazaro e Celso in Brescia, the “Resurrection” is an oil painting on panel by Titian, dated 1520-22. In this scene resurrection and ascension are combined. Christ appears triumphant and, luminous, stands out in the sky raising a crusader banner. A group of soldiers sleeps below, in the shadows.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio

Oil on canvas from 1600-1601, Caravaggio’s “Incredulity of St. Thomas” is kept in Potsdam. The scene is taken from the Gospel of John: Jesus rises and presents himself to the apostles. Thomas, not being present at the apparition, remains incredulous and doubtful. At his second appearance he decides to go and see for himself whether Christ has actually risen and, realizing the prodigy, he exclaims “My Lord and my God”. The gesture of inserting the finger into the wound is powerfully dramatic and involves the spectator with theatrical and dramatic tension in the divine event.

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