The Passion of Christ

The Entombment

This is how Matthew describes the entombment:
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. Ch 27  V  57 - 60
This painting by Rogier van der Weyden illustrates the quotation rather well, though that stone would be rather difficult to roll.

Uffizi, Florence

 However, most entombment images do not resemble Van der Weyden's painting or the text. Christ is placed in a sarcophagus rather than in a cave-like tomb. Here are some examples: 

Pietro Lorenzetti: Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Taddeo Gaddi: Cappella di Bardi di Vernio, Santa Croce, Florence

Simone Martini: Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Donatello: Basilica di Sant'Antonio, Padua

  The change was due to the imperative to show the tomb of Christ as an altar, the place where, in the liturgy, the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ.  What was lost, apart from historical accuracy, was the opportunity to parallel entombment images with images of the beginning of the story, the Nativity. 
   Fra Angelico managed to square the circle; his tomb is altar-like, but it is enclosed in a rock hewn tomb.  Below right is his fresco of the Nativity from San Marco in Florence. To my mind, echoes of the entombment to come are unmistakeable. 

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

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