Art & Aesthetics Art Blog
Looking at Raphael's painting, The Deposition of Christ, one can only imagine the preparation he put into that masterpiece: the finely orchestrated chaos of forms and figures depicting the somber entombment. His style was less dramatic than that of Michelangelo or Leonardo but more earthly and humanistic. This piece of work is strong and moving in its pathos. It transforms a sacred written chronicle into a believable illusion that engages the viewer with the narrative and not just the artist's hand.
It was in 1508 when Raphael painted that picture, a recreated vision of an event that occurred in the year thirty something. I wonder how the scene might look if someone had been able to snap a photo way back then and there at Gol'gotha. In their sorrow and passion, would this group really have looked as composed and harmonious, arranged in such perfect disarray as Raphael, the quintessential draftsman would have us believe? Who are these posers, anyway - actors, models? No matter. The important thing is the actual people and event that they are portraying. I admit that I had to go to my bookshelf and blow the dust off of the number-one best seller of all time, The Bible, to refresh my memory. Yes, of course - it was Joseph, John, Mary, and the other Mary et al (including one mysteriously unnamed disciple mentioned in John 19:26). I'm a hard-boiled skeptic, but once again I am moved to tears by the account.
Back to the picture, my eye moves in an arc from the hilltop in the right corner, pulled by gravity down to where the weight of a brutal world rests in Jesus' lifeless body before taking an upward trajectory into the dark uncertainty at the left margin. To get more familiar with Raphael__™s rendition, I redrew it. Admittedly, some details were lost in my reinterpretation - the sparse foliage springing up in the foreground, the leaden sky and heavenly light of some unseen portal that shines on Christ and reflects on the disciples - but it still tells the story.
We call it Good Friday now, but it was a hell of a weekend. Crucified as a heretic, Jesus must have had His disciples wondering what gives with all the pain and humiliation. I mean, the Son of God is dying here - hello-o-o?! Still, He demonstrated the most amazing grace under pressure before giving up the ghost after which His disciples were given to lower His body from the cross - the ultimate symbol of sacrifice, like up on that hill - and carry Him to the tomb as rendered here in my not-so-Renaissance style after Raphael (who, ironically, also died on Good Friday some fifteen hundred and forty-odd years later). But on the third day it was Jesus Christ who came through for us all, big time, in a spiritual rebirth celebrated to this day: The Resurrection. The scenario depicted here, whether well or crudely rendered, simply represents the saddest part of the happiest ending of the greatest story ever told. I thank the Lord for the ability to believe in miracles. Happy Easter.