Meeting the Resurrected Christ in the art of the Counter-Reformation

By Elizabeth Lev
"Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene" (1581) by Lavinia Fontana, where Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener, and so she paints him in a broad-brimmed hat holding a shovel.
We do not always know Christ when we first meet him, and the recognition is always a powerful moment. Throughout the centuries, the resurrection of Christ has posed particular challenges to Christian art. Paleo-Christian art avoided the subject altogether, perhaps out of respect for the Gospels’ scant detail in describing the blessed event. After several centuries, however, Christ’s return from death grew into a popular depiction, and imagination began to supply what the scriptural account lacked. While Barocci, Caracciolo and Francesco Albani all wrestled with the story of Christ’ meeting with the Magdalene (Jn 20:11-17), one of the most poignant Counter-Reformation images of Noli Me Tangere was painted by Lavinia Fontana in 1581. [link]

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