Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Death of Christ

Folio 153r

Facing and contrasting to Jean Colombe's Crucifixion in the manuscript is the Limbourgs' Death of Christ. The gloom represented here in grayish black tones is not the black of night as in Christ in Gethsemane (folio 142v) but a phenomenon associated with the death of Christ: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?" (Matthew XXVII: 45-46)
After this last appeal to His Father, Christ's head fell forward onto His hreast and He died, but a halo shining in the shadows continued to mark His divinity.
In heaven, the Eternal Father shows by His blessing that He has not forsaken His Son. On either side of Jesus, the thieves expire on their crosses, and still farther to each side, in the upper corners of the miniature, the sun on the left and moon on the right are veiled by the mysterious eclipse.
At the foot of the Cross a crowd has gathered, in which several figures are recognizable. On the left, supported by Saint John, the Virgin swoons with suffering; above her, the centurion, struck by the wonders around him, raises his hand to his heart and exclaims, "Indeed this was the Son of God! " (Matthew XXVII: 54)
Opposite them, a soldier holding a mace looks at the crucified Christ with surprise and seems to share the thoughts of his brother in arms. Although the scene lacks the simple beauty and technical perfection of Christ in Gethsemane, it is extremely touching.
In the margins, three small medallions depict the miracles that accompanied Christ's death. On the upper right, an astronomer searches the heavens for an explanation of the sudden darkness; below, the curtain of the Temple is torn in two; under the miniature, the resuscitated leave their tombs.

small image (24KB) --- large image (191KB) --- God the Father blesses Jesus (large) (151KB) --- The Virgin and Saint John at the foot of the Cross (large) (164KB)

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