Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Another way that Lazarus is used as a symbol in a non-biblical context is through the medium of works of art (paintings, sculpture and other visual arts). Here are twelve different paintings from the 400s A.D. to the 20th century which show Lazarus and artists’ interpretations of the Lazarus character:
(Raising of Lazarus, Ivory Carving, 400's A.D. Faith Central, New Zealand.) This ivory carving by an unknown artist is one of the earliest artistic interpretations on the raising of Lazarus. In this carving, Lazarus is seen in a shroud which was the common burial custom of Jesus’ day. The message in this work of art is to show the mystical elements of Christ’s divinity which is clearly shown by the rod that he holds in His hand. The raising of Lazarus for many can be seen as a magical moment in Jesus’ ministry. Lazarus’ symbolic function in this carving comes across as being that he was merely another person involved in one of Jesus’ miracles.

(Scenes from the Life of Christ: 9. Raising of Lazarus, Giotto di Bondone, 1304-1306. Web Gallery of Art.) In this painting by Bondone, Lazarus is seen in a funeral wrap, but is shown with a halo crowning his head. This seems to suggest the symbolism as Lazarus being a believer in Christ. Bondone actually did more than one painting of the raising of Lazarus which suggests that he was aware of the significance of this event and it’s inclusion in John’s Gospel. In Bondone’s other painting of this scene, the scene is basically set up in the same way as this painting interprets it.

(St Lazarus between Martha and Mary, Unknown Spanish, c 1490. Web Gallery of Art.) In this painting by an unknown Spanish artist, Lazarus is seen fully raised between two women considered to be Mary and Martha. The title of the painting ‘St. Lazarus between Martha and Mary’ seems to be evidence that whoever the artist may be was in the faction of believers whom believed that Lazarus was the ‘Beloved Disciple.’ The title’s link between Lazarus and the sainthood raises the possibility to this belief.

(The Resurrection of Lazarus, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1517-19. Web Gallery of Art.) Piombo’s painting displays a different take on the raising of Lazarus all together, in the way that he sets the scene up. Lazarus is shown still being weak from death and smelling of death. Sebastiano del Piombo uses his interpretation of the Lazarus scene to show the disbelief of several members of the crowd assembled at scene and by doing this he shows that Lazarus was an important figure in Jesus’ ministry. Piombo captures all the elements of sensations (sight, smell, sound and feeling) present at the raising of Lazarus by his use of colors and motion in the painting. It is a lively interpretation of Lazarus’ resuscitation.

(The Raising of Lazarus, Rembrandt, 1630. Web Gallery of Art.) Rembrandt’s painting of Lazarus being raised has an eerie like presence to it. It seems to depict the seen in a more Gothic manner than the other artists’ interpretations. Whatever the case may be with why Rembrandt chose to interpret this scene in this particular way doesn’t really matter---this painting still has relevance for viewing the Lazarus motif used in the art world. Perhaps the main reason why this painting is puzzling is the meaning of the painting to individual interpreters as opposed to the meaning of the painting to the artist---one suggestion may be that he is trying to play with humankind’s fascination/obsession with death and what comes after death.

(The Raising of Lazarus (etching), Rembrandt, 1632. Olga's Gallery.) Here is another work of art by Rembrandt which clearly gives further evidence that Rembrandt may have planned to interpret the raising of Lazarus in a rather Gothic light in order to convey a more concrete image of ancient tombs. This etching of Rembrandt’s shows the raising of Lazarus from a different perspective and with the absence of color displays the darkness of a tomb. The use of blank white space symbolizes the light Lazarus may have seen after being dead for however long he was dead till Jesus raised him.

(The Resurrection of Lazarus, Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet, CGFA, 1706, canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris.) This is an interesting painting, because it appears to show two men raised from the dead (unless I am mistaken). Jouvenet seems to be interested in the same aspects of the Lazarus scene as Piombo was with his use of stimulating several sensations all at once to transport the person whom looks at this painting to the scene of Lazarus’ raising itself. Jouvenet recognizes the importance of the symbolic Lazarus figure too which also links him with Piombo’s thinking.

( The Raising of Lazarus, William Blake, c 1800. Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums.) William Blake was not only a GREAT classic poet, but an artist as well---in this impression of Lazarus being raised from the dead, Blake offers a glimpse of the holy aspect of the miracle of the Lazarus scene in John. In this portrait, Blake’s main goal is to portray the divine and the messianic features of Christ. Blake, also, utilizes the Lazarus theme in several poems of his. Blake has an interest in religious themes in general and plays around with them in his poetry and artwork though his poetry gives him better grounds to play with and develop his use of religious themes.

{The Raising of Lazarus, Gustav Dore, 1865. Felix Just's "Gospel of John" site. [The inscription under the picture itself states: “Resurrection Of Lazarus--- And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.... (John 11:43)”].} Dore did a whole study of the major scenes in the 4th Gospel in black and white. This was one among the many biblical interpretations that he did. Once again, the absence of color suggests the way an ancient tomb would seem to those who entered it. Lazarus is covered in a ghost-like shroud which represents the spiritual resurrection of believers.

(The Raising of Lazarus (After Rembrandt), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890.) Van Gogh’s study of the Lazarus narrative is a focused study of Rembrandt’s painting. The focal point seems to be the relationship between Jesus and Lazarus in the narrative and beyond the narrative itself. The vibrant usage of color in Van Gogh’s painting represents the light and warmth felt when in Jesus’ presence and also the feeling Lazarus must have had after being risen.

(Lazarus, William Congdon, 1961. Christus Rex.) William Congdon’s interpretation of the Lazarus symbol is more of an avant-garde artistic approach. Lazarus is clothed in a purple shroud which represents his resurrection. (One side note: purple in many cultures of the ancient world was a symbol of royalty. For example: Roman emperors had purple stripes on their togas and wore purple cape-like cloaks over them. {This is why Jesus is seen in a purple robe in some artists’ depictions of Him.} Other colors were representative of other ranks of status held by Roman citizens.). Jesus is the white blob to the left which shows that He is ‘the Light.’ Congdon displays the Lazarus scene in an Impressionistic style, eventhough it is rather avant-garde---it still echoes the more classic styles of art. Congdon is trying to emphasize that the main importance of the Lazarus narrative is the relationship between Jesus and Lazarus. This is what made the narrative important and for that reason alone the reader is impacted.

(The Raising of Lazarus, Alfred Leslie, 1975. Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Oil on Canvas, Leslie is an American artist born in 1927.) Leslie’s approach to the Lazarus text brings to mind various mummy movies more than it does the Lazarus text, but nevertheless is representative of a more modern artistic interpretation of the Lazarus symbol. Leslie takes a bold approach in his rendering of the Lazarus story, but shows the person who looks at this painting that Lazarus was just another dead man before Jesus came along. Likewise, before a person accepts Jesus into their lives, they are just another person dead to themselves until the moment that they receive Christ.

Lazarus appears to be in more paintings than sculptures and motion pictures, but is represented in those fields in more subtle manners. Some examples of sculptures in which the Lazarus symbol can be found are: the sculptures of Christ’s ascension and the sculptures which represent the Greco-Roman views of the gods or other divine beings raising the dead. Some film examples are: the appearance of Lazarus in movies about Christ or the bible, horror films and more artsy films.


CHARLAX said...

in this Hollywood environment when everyone is concentrating on the death of Jesus on the bloody wooden thing the CROSS…this season please try to think a different way the same old way of Christians under Nero and the Caesars who repeated that they saw HIM risen
They nailed fishes to the doors of meeting halls and fed the brothers and the sisters everyone
The empty tomb should be the focus of us all the STONE was rolled away after having been so guarded by the soldiers of the fortunes of the war
Eye believe an ANGEL placed his foot against the STONE and set the stone to roll
The Lord Came Forth
This is my happy Easter Sunday
He is raised now from the Dead
He will come back soon to earth from sky of HEAVEN to complete the by and by. To claim the world he made.

CHARLAX said...

Interpretation of Rembrandt
We were totally unprepared for what Jesus had in mind for his cousin Lazereth. WE had decided he was GOD and so he was in all our minds then this this Manifestation of Power. Right in front of us. In front of lots of folks the whole region it seemed like was out there surrounding us competing with one another in the press of the throngs You know that Bethany was near Jerusalem, not two miles away, and many friends of Martha and Mary had come from Jerusalem to mourn with them, or comfort them. It was the custom. He tried to answer someone from the crowd but was too emotional he was weeping angry at himself for not being there to stop the death. We all took it for granted what he said that iff he had been there it would not have happened. They uncovered the crypt and the first thing that eye noticed was an incompleted angel is the best way to describe this it looked like wings and a sword on a ghost for there was no body there. Add that to the fact that when Jesus spoke this disembodied Cupid moved over the body of Lazereth as iff he was lifting it up out of the ground answering his Lords words with action and power. When he was fully restored to life they loosed his graveclothes and stepped back he moved animated and jointed again like a marionette puppet come back to life. We who were there were eye witnesses to his Majesty the fact that a dead man now lives again among the living not as a zombie or nimbus but a real flesh and blood man needing food and sustenance again why the Lord Jesus himself ate a part of a honeycomb to reassure us that he could eat food after death is just life come once again.

TheoPoet said...

Thanks for stopping by and your insights! Interesting poems by the way.