The Life of Jesus in Art: the days after His Resurrection
Holy Week in Art – the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are popular subjects in art. I have blogged about famous art of some of these events in several posts. Jesus Cleansing the Temple for Holy Week (El Greco), the Last Supper (Leonardo da Vinci), the Pieta (Michelangelo) for Good Friday, and the Resurrection (Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece).
. . . But what happened immediately after the events of this Holy Week is also important – and included in Famous Art.
Supper at Emmaus is a significant event that transpires immediately after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is typically not celebrated by most modern-day Christians and is recorded in the Bible only in Luke’s Gospel. (Luke 24: 13-25)
During the 40 days between Jesus Christ’s resurrection and his ascent to Heaven, He appeared in person to his followers on numerous occasions. One of those times was when He appeared to two of his disciples, one identified as Cleopas, on the road to Emmaus. Emmaus was a village about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem. This distance gave Him ample time to visit with them as they walked along to their destination. Immediately following the major events of Holy Week, the timely discussion, of course, focused on everything that had just transpired as it related to Jesus. They obviously had lots to discuss – and lots of questions!
What the disciples did not know . . . at first . . . was that they were walking and talking with Jesus Himself! In response to their many questions, He enlightened them on the Scripture concerning Himself, His death and resurrection – starting with Moses and all the Prophets! After all, they did have 7 miles in which to talk! Wow! That was a discussion in which I wish I could have been a part! I’m sure it was a discussion that they remembered (and treasured) always – and probably wished they had paid better attention! When they reached their destination, it was nearly evening so they invited Him to join them for supper. He accepted.
During supper, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Instantly, the eyes of the totally astonished men were opened! They immediately recognized that it was Jesus – who then disappeared from their sight! That had to be frustrating – as I’m sure they now had even more questions! Suddenly, the time of night wasn’t important as they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. (From Luke 24:13-25, NIV).
The Supper at Emmaus was a popular subject in art that emerged in the 1600s during the European Baroque period. I am especially intrigued by four paintings by three prominent Baroque painters – and future inquiries into another!
Supper at Emmaus: Caravaggio
Caravaggio (formally: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. His Italian Baroque oil painting of “The Supper of Emmaus” is a good example of his innovative style which influenced painters all over Europe. I love how the people and subjects in his paintings seem to burst forth from the frame!
This version of Caravaggio’s “The Supper of Emmaus” was completed about 1601 and is one of my favorites. Note how the elbow of one disciple, and the hand of the other, seem to break out of the canvas toward the viewer.
It is currently at the National Gallery, London, England.
P.C 4/21/22: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Caravaggio,_London)
In another version of “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio (1606), the subjects also seem to burst forth from the picture and into the room. The emphasis in this one is on the hand of Jesus as He is about to give thanks for the bread. This had new significance after his recent crucifixion and resurrection.
It is currently at the Pinacoteca de Berea, Milan, Italy.
P.C 4/21/22: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Caravaggio,_Milan)
Supper at Emmaus: Rembrandt
Rembrandt (formally: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn) was the most important artist in the Dutch Golden Age. One of the greatest visual artists in the history of art, he was an innovative and prolific master in three media: paint, printmaking and draughting.
Rembrandt’s “Christ at Emmaus” (1648) is set against the Dutch Baroque painter’s typically darker background in this simple setting. The light that reflects from the white table cloth illuminates the scene as does the glow encircling the head of Jesus.
It is currently at the Louvre, Paris, France; it is oil on panel and about 26″ x 25″ in size.
P.C 4/21/22: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supper_at_Emmaus_(Rembrandt,_Louvre)
Supper at Emmaus: Velazquez
Velázquez (formally: Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez) was a Spanish painter and the key artist of the Spanish Golden Age. An individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, he was also the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain and Portugal.
Velazquez painted his version of “Christ and the Pilgrims at Emmaus” (1625-26). In this oil painting, as with the others, light also impacts the viewer. As Jesus is about the break the bread with his right hand, a strong supernatural light strikes His head and illuminates His wounded left hand.
It is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, USA; it is 48″ x 52″
P.C 4/21/22: metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437871
Honthorst . . . & Future Searches
Gerritt van Honthorst is one of my favorite artists whose use of light and dark fascinates me. Another Baroque Dutch Golden Age painter who became known for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, he visited Rome early in his career where he had great success painting in a style influenced by Caravaggio.
Check out my blog on him and his work in a Christmas blog on Happy Birthday Jesus. There was some confusing information when I searched for works by him on The Supper at Emmaus, so I will continue in my quest – and post my discoveries!
- Holy Bible, New International Version (1977).
- Lessons and Baroque Art Historical studies by Professor Cher Baumhoefner