The Passion of Christ

The Deposition

All four gospels report Joseph of Arimathea's request for the body of Christ , and his entombment of it. John adds a further character, Nicodeumus:

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.  And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Ch 19 v 38-39.

   This is the third mention of Nicodemus in John's Gospel, and John clearly marks him out as a follower, particularly in Chapter 3.  Joseph of Arimathea appears in a number of later legends, some associating him with the Holy Grail and Glastonbury.

  The presumably difficult business of removing a body from the cross is not described, but artists have made up for this with many superb paintings. Which to choose? I'm choosing four that I find particularly powerful, perhaps because I have seen all of them for real. Great art in a book or on a screen is O.K., but nothing matches the real thing.

Pietro Lorenzetti: Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Fra Angelico: Museo di San Marco, Florence

Jacopo Pontormo: Santa FelicitÓ, Florence

Rogier van der Weyden: Museo del Prado, Madrid

  And the greatest of the four? All wonderful, but for me it's the van der Weyden that stands out. Stand in front of it in the Prado, and experience its extraordinary three dimensional quality that no reproduction can do justice to.

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