Museums and Art

“The Dead Christ in the Tomb”, Hans Holbein - description of the painting

“The Dead Christ in the Tomb”, Hans Holbein - description of the painting

Dead Christ in the Tomb - Hans Holbein. 30.5 x 200 cm

This picture is one of the most unusual images of Jesus Christ. In the usual, traditional style, the death of the son of God was portrayed delicately, without naturalistic signs, and sometimes even pathetically, sublimely. In the same picture - naked realism, the cruel truth of death not covered by anything - ugly, the corpse began to decompose.

Unlike many other works on the canvas of Holbein, Christ appears before us not as a super-being, but as an ordinary person. He, like everyone else, is mortal, and only then his spirit will conquer the darkness, soar and give the world the miracle of the Resurrection.

Traces of torture and beatings are visible on the body of a dead Christ. His features were distorted by mortal misery, his mouth twisted, his skin darkened. This is not a “marble” or “porcelain” body of a deity, which is traditionally depicted on religious canvases. This is the flesh of a battered and tortured man for his faith.

Many researchers see Holbein's disbelief in this fact. But the artist could well use such an artistic technique to emphasize the divine nature of Christ, who managed to leave his tortured mortal body and soar with his spirit to heaven, having resurrected in a living form. This is quite possible, because it is believed that the picture was part of the altar. Perhaps the elements of the canvas that did not reach us supplemented the general impression and changed the semantic orientation of the main part.

The incredible realism of the image is explained by the fact that the picture was made from nature - the artist painted Jesus from a drowned man, recovered from the Rhine. This fact can explain the presence of injuries and bruises on the body. The dead sitter involuntarily gave the master real material to create an extremely realistic and, especially, terrible image of violent brutal death.

Another feature of the picture that makes it original and unusual is the horizontal arrangement of a narrow, elongated canvas. It creates the feeling that the viewer sees a body placed in a transparent coffin, which further enhances the gloomy impression of the canvas.

Signs of death and decay are emphasized by the dark, gloomy color scheme of the picture. It is made in grayish-brown tones, the only light element is the fabric of Christ's loincloth and the canvas on which lies his body. There is no glow emanating from the body, as in other paintings, only death and decay.

By the effect that is produced on the audience, this picture can be compared with another great work on the same complex subject - “The Dead Christ” by Andrea Mantegna. But, unlike the work of the Italian artist, in the canvas of Holbein, Christ is infinitely lonely - there are no relatives or his followers next to him.


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