Light vs. Dark: “The Resurrection” by Anthony Vandyke

“The Resurrection” by Anthony Vandyke, Wadsworth Atheneum

By Kirk Ahenkorah

The resurrection of Christ is a central doctrine in Christianity. It is believed that after the
painful and gruesome crucifixion of Jesus Christ, he was buried in a cave behind a tombstone, but on the third day the women who took care of his dead body found out the body had disappeared. It is widely believed among Christians that on the third day he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. This painting depicts the moment when Christ ascended to the skies and is seen by the Roman soldiers.  The central idea of this piece is good vs bad, light vs darkness. It shows that even though there is darkness around the sun will always come up. It’s the idea of hope.

This painting titled “The Resurrection,” by artist Anthony Vandyke in c. 1631-32, depicts the glorious event when Christ ascended to heaven on the third day after his crucifixion. In this piece we can see Jesus, who is wearing white hovering over the Roman soldiers, as they look in total fear at the same person they had unfairly and unjustly killed hover over them. The artist makes a decision to paint Jesus in white clothing to represent his triumph over evil and darkness. The artist’s choice of lighting is very interesting. On one hand we can see Jesus high in the sky were the sun is out the clouds are white and the whole thing is bright and colorful including his clothing, but when we look down to see the Roman warriors we see that the picture gets darker, gloomy and filled with fear. The symbolism that the artist is trying to convey is that Jesus is the “bringer of light,” as said in the Bible, and his death was going to save mankind from the darkness of evil. The artist shows the light he brings as it begins to shine brighter and brighter and the light slowly takes over the artwork. In the painting, the Romans signify the evil in the world hence they are still engulfed with darkness.

The color really tells the story of the painting, looking at the Roman soldiers’ attire it’s
made up mainly of the color red, brown and blue which translate to war, blood, and honor. These are the traits that drove the Romans to try and take over the world and in the process brought evil and darkness to the world. He chose to draw Jesus in the color white, which interpreted as grace, peace, and victory, signifying that he had won the fight against evil. Vandyke’s drawing of the character Jesus is very interesting as well; he draws Jesus muscular and aesthetic. However, research shows that Jesus was somebody who didn’t enjoy eating much. He once fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2). If anything he was not the most physically imposing man you would meet. In some perspective the muscles we see in this piece could be the artist’s way of showing the power of Jesus.

Vandyke was a great painter and he continues to influence artists of today. Vandyke was
also known to draw his subjects and give them a certain amount of glory and mightiness about them that they did not possess in reality. An example is King Charles III, who loved Vandyke’s paintings of him and knighted him and made him the royal artist. In all accounts, King Charles III was a very short frail man, but when who look at Vandyke’s paintings of him you see a very heroic figure who looks nothing like he actually looked  and in later generation saw King Charles III as a heroic figure. In a sense Vandyke was Photoshop before Photoshop.

The viewer can see the Roman soldiers tremble at the sight of Jesus who is high and mighty over them; this is style of art Vandyke was well known for. According to research, most sources say the long blonde hair on Jesus Christ looks exactly like the artist’s hair. This was very interesting because it was said that he made that painting for either his home or for church, which makes one wonder if this painting of Jesus was how the artist viewed himself. During his time as the personal painter of King Charles III, he was knighted by the king himself who put him in a class above painters of his time, so it’s plausible that that’s how he saw himself, which explains the muscles and the heroic look of “Jesus.”

But if this painting was made for the church as some sources claim, I believe the message
behind it was hope that eventually good always wins over evil. The story behind the paintings talks about the triumph over death and the belief that our sins were washed away by the death of Jesus.

Vandyke’s painting of King Charles III

Works Cited

“Anthony Vandyke.” National Gallery. National Gallery .N.D. Web. 19 feb.2019.

“European Art,” Wadswarth Athenaeum, Wadswarth Athenaeum . N.D. Web. 19 Feb.

The New Jerusalem Bible. Henry Wansbrough, gen. ed. New York, 1985. Print.

Course: ENG 101 Composition, Spring 2019
Assignment: Visual Analysis
Instructor: Alexa Carey

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