Etchings of the Resurrection
After delving into the Passion, it is just such a relief to get to the Resurrection! Because the Passion ends on such a grim note. Besides, not only do the chief priests kill Jesus in a horribly brutal way in front of everybody so that there is no doubt that He is dead, but they also try to stop any hope that somehow Jesus might be able to come back from this. Just take a look at the next gospel:
62The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ 64Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” 66So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.
The chief priests are really doing everything they can, not just to kill Jesus, but to destroy every last hope that the people may have. Yes, the disciples of Jesus might try to claim that Christ has been raised by the dead. But, if that happens, they can simply point at the corpse of Jesus, whom they guarded, and proclaim that death is the end and, if any others get out of line, they will meet the same gruesome fate.
Which makes the next story so amazing.
1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. 3 His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. 4The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. 5Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” 8Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
A lot of artworks like to set Christ coming out of a sarcophagus. However, it is more likely that He was put in a cave. And so, I would like to present you this artwork, which has Christ coming out of a cave!
A lot is happening in this picture! Jesus comes flying out of the tomb, holding a standard depicting a red cross, while the soldiers that guarded Him fall back, astonished. In their hands are a variety of medieval weapons, plus some flasks to drink beer — another popular medieval pastime! Also, sticks and stones litter the ground, indicating that they were in the middle of an old European game, in which sticks were thrown at stones as some sort of target practice game. Perhaps they were playing that to stay awake. But, with Christ coming, all they can do is draw away, surprised.
There is lots of light in the picture! Christ seems to radiate light, looking as bright as a second sun, while the real sun rises in the background. Then the angel, who is also bathed in light, appears to meet the women. Then, just over the hill come the women, who are coming en masse to take care of the corpse, not knowing that Jesus has risen.
If this artwork looks a little different from what I usually feature, you are correct! Normally, I’ll feature paintings. This, on the other hand, is NOT a painting. It is a hand-colored engraving! Which begs the question… what is an engraving?
This article, by the Metropolitan Museum, is a lovely introduction to the art of engraving, but basically engraving is when you take a metal plate and use a tool to gouge it in a particular manner so that it can make an image. Then it can “print” the artwork in one color!
It is a technique that probably originally came from gold-smithing, but many artists adopted it as their own and made gorgeous etchings to illustrate the books that were starting to be printed, thanks to the advent of the printing press. Because each engraving only uses only one color, the drawings tend to be more intricate, with many lines used to shade and give depth to an image. Thus, since each line had to be painstakingly grooved into metal, it could be a long process to make even one plate. And yet, this was the quickest way to make mass-produced art!
Most of the engravings are only black and white images. But this one is a little different. It is a hand-colored engraving, which is pretty special. Not only did these artists likely make the metal plate to make this image, but they also hand-colored it, so that the glory of the Resurrection could really shine!
And thus, they could display the sunrise — and the Son Rise! — with equal splendor. For every day is a gift, but to have Christ with us?
That is a blessing.
This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Glorious Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here!