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The Morning Report — 12/7/22 | Main | Wednesday Morning Rant [Joe Mannix]
December 07, 2022

Mid-Morning Art Thread [Kris]

Raphael Deposition.jpg

The Deposition
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

This work is all about line and composition. It starts off like a very simple painting. Ten people are in the extreme foreground, divided into two groups of five. The background is a contemporary Renaissance landscape framed by the two settings of the Passion: the Tomb on the left and Cavalry on the right. A lone tree in the back marks the painting’s near-center vertical which divides the two groups. It’s very mathematical, very precise, very organized. This is where the simplicity ends, however.

The figures on the left show a variety of poses, and their heads create a tight arc that thrusts left. My eye goes to Christ’s body first. In a mass of bright reds, blues, and greens, His body is a pale tan. It is also a horizontal element among verticals. It sticks out. Following Raphael’s line, my eye comes to the man supporting Christ’s upper body. This man is straining from the dead weight of the corpse. Notice how his head and upper body parallels Christ’s and how the two faces are almost identical. It seems like Raphael is trying to link and contrast these two specifically. They are life and death, sinner and sinless, Man and God. I also like the irony here: the man is burdening under the weight of the dead Christ who died carrying the dead weight of this man’s sin.

Raphael continues the eye’s journey through the rest of the group: John, probably Joseph of Arimathea, and Mary Magdalene. Each reacts appropriately. The arc through these figures ends at Mary’s left hand which grasps Christ’s. It is full of meaning. Look at the subtle coloring. Christ’s hand is pale and lifeless while Mary’s has a warm golden tone. Her touch is tender, full of sadness and shock, and anchors one end of the arc. My eye is drawn through several different reactions, like I’m seeing the stages of grief unfold, before ending here. For me then, this tiny gesture is the emotional center of the painting.

Christ’s legs and the straining arm of the man holding them lead my eye into the second group of figures on the right. Echoing the left, this group leans right, but the motion is not as dramatic as the other. Where the leftward movement is defined by the pose of the man holding Christ’s head who is at the extreme left of the work, the man holding His legs is in the center. His pose mirrors the head-bearer but the flow rightward is stopped by the strong verticals of the women behind him. These women also form an arc around a central figure, Mother Mary, who faints and is supported by the others. Mary complements Jesus. Compare them. They have similar poses, facial expressions and pallor. They almost mirror each other. Also the line formed by her body will intersect Christ’s at a right angle, forming a T. This recreates the form of the Cross, which is also seen on the hilltop in back. As Mary falls back, her form brings my eye up to that hilltop and the event that preceded this scene.

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posted by Open Blogger at 09:30 AM

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