Looking at Holy Week through Art – Friday, April 10, 2020

The Dead Christ by Mantegna

Italian painter, Mantegna (1431-1506) offers a very different perspective of Good Friday. Usually, we see Jesus nailed to the cross, suffering or perhaps taking his final breath. The crucifixion view is usually an eye-level view-we are face to face with Jesus on the cross. In this painting, The Dead Christ, Jesus has just been removed from the cross. His corpse is prone, as He is being prepared for His burial. We get to see the wounds in Christ’s hands and feet. We experience the grief of the two people standing beside Him (His mother, Mary and John, the Beloved Disciple?). We see his lifeless face and grieve with them. The painting catches a snapshot of a very intimate moment, after the cross and before the tomb.

However, we view all of this, as professor of liturgy, Zsupan-Jerome writes from Jesus’ feet. Mantegna places us, the viewer of the painting, front and center, right at Christ’s feet. We are forced to his wounded feet, to stand there closely and witness all that has happened to our Lord whom we love as we view His corpse. The muted tones of this artwork help us understand with our senses, that The Dead Christ, is truly dead. How does this painting make you feel, on this Good Friday?