To illustrate the Easter Mass, Jean Colombe freely
interpreted that part of the Gospel of Matthew read
during the Good Friday Office:
And in the end of the sabbath, when
it began to dawn towards the first
day of the week, came Mary Magdalene
and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.
And behold there was a great
earthquake. For an angel of the Lord
descended from heaven, and coming,
rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
And his countenance was as lightning,
and his raiment as snow.
And for fear of him, the guards were
struck with terror, and became as
(Matthew XXVIII: 1-4)
Jean Colombe has painted the guards strewn
around the tomb which, interestingly enough, is
sealed. The angel, with radiant wings and face, stands
on the stone beside a figuration of Christ whose
banner, symbolic of the Resurrection, confirms the
nature of the representation.
The angel seems to be on the point of speaking to the two Marys in the margin: "And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified." (Matthew XXVIII: 5)
Christ gestures, as if to dismiss the angel, in an attitude similar to that toward Mary Magdalene in the lower border.
The sun is about to rise; a faint light brightens the horizon, and the first rays of dawn begin to color the night sky, reflecting from the rocks on the left and from the edges of the tomb in the foreground, while the city remains enshadowed. As in the Entombment (folio 157r), but to a lesser degree, Jean Colombe indulged in those effects of light that heighten the atmosphere of the scene and at which he excelled.
Amid the border foliation he has created little figures related to the subject of the miniature: two angels praying in the upper part, the two Marys carrying ointments on the right, and Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene below.
In accordance with a new tradition, probably inspired by the Mysteries, Christ holds a spade instead of the usual oriflamme symbolic of His victory over death.
This new iconography agrees with Saint John's account that Mary Magdalene at first supposed the resurrected Christ to be a gardener until He spoke to her, warning her not to touch Him ("noli me tangere"): "Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God." (John XX: 17)
This is also, in all probability, the meaning of His gesture of dismissal toward the angel at the tomb.
small image (33KB) --- large image (256KB) --- The Resurrected Christ and the angel (large) (233KB) --- The guards struck with terror (large) (233KB)