In a twilight laden with dark clouds, Jean Colombe
has successfully rendered the tragic grandeur of the
Entombment of the Son of God. The three crosses
on Calvary stand out against the orange reflections of
the sun setting in a pale sky; the thieves have not yet
been taken down, and ladders still lean against Christ's
The body of Jesus has been brought to the tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea: while the Virgin lifts the body with a maternal attitude, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrap it in a shroud.
The jar of spices brought by Nicodemus has been placed beside the tomb; Mary Magdalene kneels to anoint Jesus' hand while Mary Cleophas, the mother of James, also kneels and contemplates His face. Other holy women pray at the head of the tomb.
Sain John, silhouetted against the darkened Calvary which is in turn outlined by the sun's last rays, supports the Virgin as she leans over her Son; the distressed man on the right is probably Saint Peter, repenting his denial of Christ.
The composition was created with the dramatic nature of the scene in mind: the attitudes are noble and the faces illuminated by the waning light.
However, Christ's body seems very stiff compared to that executed by the Limbourgs on the opposite page. Although the face of Mary is touching, the others are less expressive and sometimes awkward, the chief fault of Jean Colombe and one evident in many of his miniatures.
Yet the touching attitudes and striking effects of light make this one of his most beautiful works.
small image (15KB) --- large image (162KB) --- The darkened Calvary (large) (178KB) --- The Virgin lifts Christ's body (large) (187KB)