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The Entombment of Christ

Caravaggio, 1604

This is one of Caravaggio's masterpieces.

The Descent was commissioned by Girolamo Vittrice for the family chapel in Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome. Caravaggio does not really represent the Sepultura or the Descent in the traditional way, since the Christ is not described when being taken down to the tomb, but when, in the presence of devout women, it is placed by Nicodemus and John on the Stone of Anointing, that is, the tumbal stone with which the tomb will be closed. Around the body of Christ are placed the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, John, Nicodemus and Mary of Cleophas, who raises his arms and eyes to heaven in a gesture of dramatic high tension.

This is a painting of mourning, as our gaze goes down from the shadows, there is also a descent from the dramatic lamentation of Maria de Cleofás, towards a contained emotion of the Virgin.

The curiosities tell us that this work was one of the very few works produced by Caravaggio that achieved a unanimous consensus, arousing the admiration even of contemporary critics of the painter. In addition, there is a famous copy of the Flemish painter Rubens. Another detail is that also at that time the Italian Christs die usually without blood and in a defiant position as if they wanted to emphasize the inability of Christ to feel the pain. In addition, Caravaggio is characterized by the language of the arms. Here, we see the fallen arm of God with the veins dilated and the hand that shows the stigmas. On the other hand, María de Cleofás gesticulates looking at Heaven and opens her hands. In a certain sense, the message is that God comes to earth, and humanity is reconciled with the heavens.

Vatican Museums