Bringing the Dead Christ to the Patron in the Christian Tradition

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Bringing the Dead Christ to the Patron in the Christian Tradition

Art during the Christian tradition was produced to enhance the worship of saintly figures by church patrons. Paintings were not only used to tell a biblical story but also to form emotional connections between the patrons and the principles of the church. Artists in the Christian tradition strived to portray events of religious importance with maximum drama to make a lasting impression. They did this by applying artistic advances in ways that draw the patron into the painting. One such event was the death of Christ.

While the artists in Florence were starting to practice the potential maximization of the individual, very different things were happening up in Flanders. The region, fresh out of the dark ages, was very centered on religion. Thomas a Kempis taught in his Imitatio Christi that the individual should devote their lives to living a more Christian life and should rid themselves of all secular things. People in this region were also interested in the philosophies of Aristotle and nominalism rather than in Plato as were the people of Florence, who would again search for the perfect ideal during the renaissance.

The lack of interest in secular knowledge can be seen in Rogier Van Der Weyden’s Deposition (1435, see figure 1). The artists of Flanders had no interest in the study of the nude; therefore the figures in Deposition have oblong proportions and unnatural balance. However, the Flanders artisans had developed certain techniques, which made their works advanced in certain aspects. For centuries, monks in the area had been illuminating their manuscripts with extreme precision. This focus on detail is seen in Deposition. Every last hair is individualized and patterns on the drapery are painted to the very thread. The faces are no longer stylized but individualized so that you might recognize one of them if you saw them on the street.

The advent of oil paint made the scene much more vibrant and allowed artists to paint and repaint over an area, being able to visualize the exact color before it was applied. This new technique far surpassed the limitations of tempera that was being used in Italy.

The most important aspect of Deposition is the symbolic tie it makes between the patron and the church. It portrays the sorrow of Christ’s death at the agony of His loss.

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