Fra Angelico, The Entombment of Jesus

1438-40
Fresco
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The Gospel accounts say Jesus was buried in a tomb "hewn in the rock" that Joseph of Arimathea donated along with a linen cloth for the burial ritual (Matthew 27:60 – c.f. Mark, 15:46, Luke 23:53). But traditional images of the Entombment have Jesus laid in a sepulcher. Fra Angelico manages to follow both traditions by picturing a sarcophagus that is part of a rock-hewn tomb. He also follows the gospels by including Joseph of Arimathea and the linen cloth.

Another innovation is displaying the body almost vertically. In this way the work can function as an aid to pious meditation, with imagery suggestive of the Crucifixion: the pallor, the slumping head, the outstretched arms, the wounds, and the placement of Mary and John on the left and right.

Fra Angelico's innovations were ignored in later Entombments, with only two exceptions that I know of. About ten years later, Rogier van der Weyden followed Fra Angelico's model with another rock from which a sarcophagus has been hewn, Mary and John kissing the outstretched arms, and a few extra characters from the gospel accounts. In 1500 Michelangelo also chose a vertical figure of Christ for his unfinished and quite eccentric Entombment which de-emphasizes both the wounds and the mourning. (See the Web Gallery of Art for these examples.)

More of The Entombment

Source: Web Gallery of Art