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 50 Years/50 Artworks      

10.
 
Next Work of Art

Artist Unknown
(Italian, School of the Marches, 15th c.)
Christ Standing in the Tomb
(Blood of the Redeemer)
tempera on panel, 25 5/8" x 17 1/8"
Gift of Alice Tweed Tuohy

One of the earliest European works in the museum’s collection, this painting is by an unknown artist thought to be of the Italian School of the Marches, named for an area running along the northeastern flank of the Appenine mountains and encompassing the cities of Urbino and Fabriano. Though painted with a certain naivete and a lack of naturalism characteristic of much medieval art, the Tweed Museum’s Christ Standing in the Tomb evokes a palpable sense of drama and emotionalism. The haunting image of the living Christ in his tomb is enhanced and directed by his hands, at which he stares through narrowed eyes. His right hand calls attention to the chest wound caused by the lance of Longinus, while his left delivers the gesture of benediction. The figure itself draws attention to its own suffering and by extension to the earthly suffering of mankind, while the sun, moon, and stars above indicate that Christ’s mission as a savior embraces the entire universe. The subject is part of a late medieval tradition whereby devotional images evolved to focus on the wounds of the crucifixion and the blood flowing from them. This shift in imagery from more ethereal scenes where Christ is being lowered into the tomb by angels, to one where the still standing figure fixes attention on the wounds and blood of his own body, served to stress the role of Christ as an intercessor and savior for his followers on earth.

It has been noted that both French and German artists of the late Middle Ages painted scenes of the Passion (from the Latin passio, a suffering) where Christ’s wounds are clearly featured, and that landscape features and the half-length figure of this painting also reveal the artist’s knowledge of various traditions within Italian art, specifically the work of Piero della Francesca and Giovanni Bellini. The Tweed painting is closely related to two subjects by Bellini, whose work was known in the Marches. In the Louvre’s Christ Blessing Bellini depicts a half-length figure, alive and wearing the crown of thorns, his hands and chest bearing the wounds of the crucifixion. Bellini’s Blood of the Redeemer (National Gallery, London), shows a full-length nude figure of Christ who displays his wounds, gazing down at a stream of blood that pours into a chalice held by a kneeling angel. In drawing attention to Christ’s wounds, artists played a great role in developing and reinforcing what has been called the “cult of the Holy Blood,” so much so that a papal bull of 1464 forbade such worship.

 
 
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