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The Dead Christ is Laid to Rest

[image ALT: The more or less naked body of a dead man on a table tilted toward the viewer. The table is draped in a thick patterned material, and next to the table, on the side away from us, are a woman, obviously in anguish, reaching toward the body, being restrained by two other women; also two men standing at some small distance from the women, their heads tilted to one side. It is a fresco of the Deposition of Christ in the church of Pieve S. Maria in Valfabbrica, Umbria (central Italy).]

Awkward in its perspective — in order to show us Christ's body, the artist has tilted the catafalque toward us at an impossible angle — and very stylized in its modelling of musculature, this is still a great painting, in which movement and emotion are wonderfully portrayed: see how the holy women restrain Christ's mother!

[image ALT: A painting of a man's more or less naked body on a table tilted towards the viewer. It is a partial view of a fresco of the Deposition of Christ, by the school of Cimabue, in the church of Pieve S. Maria in Valfabbrica, Umbria (central Italy).]

The green tinge of Christ's face and the Virgin's hands is not mostly an artefact of photomanipulation; flesh tones were often worked in the Middle Ages by a first underpainting of green.

I find it interesting that though we see the nail wounds in hands and feet, and the lance wound to the chest, we see no marks of the crown of thorns across Christ's forehead, as usually represented in later centuries. I offer as an explanation, without in any way being wedded to it, that maybe the unknown artist had in mind not a thin circlet that sat rather low around the brow, after the fashion of modern crowns, but a cap that sat on the scalp, like an early medieval crown: his own period, after all.

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Page updated: 30 Jul 04