09/25: Descent

John 19:38-42

 38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Rogier van der Weyden


Rogier van der Weyden (Dutch pronunciation: [ʀoˈʝiːʀ vɑndəʀˈβ̞ɛˑɪ̯dən]) or Rogier de le Pasture (1399 or 1400 – 18 June 1464) was an Early Flemish painter. His surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. Although his life was generally uneventful, he was highly successful and internationally famous in his lifetime. His paintings were exported – or taken – to Italy and Spain, and he received commissions from, amongst others, Philip the Good, Netherlandish nobility and foreign princes. By the latter half of the fifteenth-century, he had eclipsed Jan van Eyck in popularity. However his fame lasted only until the 17th century, and largely due to changing taste, he was almost totally forgotten by the mid 18th century. His reputation was slowly rebuilt during the following 200 years; today he is known, with Robert Campin and van Eyck, as the third (by birth date) of the three great Early Flemish artists ('Vlaamse Primitieven'), and widely as the most influential Northern painter of the 15th century.

Due to the loss of archives in 1695 and again in 1940, there are few certain facts of van der Weyden's life. Rogelet de le Pasture (Roger of the Pasture) was born in Tournai (in present-day Belgium) in 1399 or 1400. His parents were Henri de le Pasture[5] and Agnes de Watrélos. He married around 1426, to Elisabeth Goffaert, and was made town painter of Brussels in 1436, and changed his name from the French to the Dutch format, becoming 'van der Weyden'. What is known of him beyond this has been woven together from secondary sources, and some of it is contestable. However the paintings now attributed to him are generally accepted, despite a tendency in the 19th century to attribute his work to others.

Van der Weyden left no self portraits. Many of his most important works were destroyed during the late 17th century. He is first mentioned in historical records in 1427 when, relatively later in life, he studied painting under Campin during 1427–32, and soon outshone his master and, later, even influenced him. After his apprenticeship he was made master of the Tournai Guild of St Luke. He moved to Brussels in 1435, where he quickly established his reputation for his technical skill and emotional use of line and color. He completed his Deposition in 1435, which as he had deliberately intended, made him one of the most sought after and influential artists in northern Europe and is still considered his masterpiece.

Van der Weyden worked from life models, and his observations were acute, yet he often idealized certain elements of his models' facial features, and they are typically statuesque, especially in his triptychs. All of his forms are rendered with rich, warm colorisation and a sympathetic expression, while he is known for his expressive pathos and naturalism. His portraits tend to be half length and half profile, and he is as sympathetic here as in his religious triptychs. Van der Weyden utilized an unusually broad range of colors and varied tones; in his finest work the same tone is not repeated in any other area of the canvas; even the whites are varied.

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The Descent from the Cross

The Descent from the Cross (or Deposition of Christ, or Descent of Christ from the Cross) is a panel painting by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden created c. 1435, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. The work shows the Deposition of Christ. The crucified Christ is lowered from the cross, his lifeless body held by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

The c. 1435 date is given due to the work's style, and because the artist acquired wealth and renown around this time, most likely as a result of creating this work. The Descent was painted early in van der Weyden's career, shortly after he completed his apprenticeship with Robert Campin, and shows the older painter's influence. The work was a self-conscious attempt by van der Weyden to create his masterpiece and establish an international reputation. The commission came from the Louvain guild of archers for their Notre-Dame-hors-des-Murs chapel, a fact evident in the cross bow T-shape of Christ's body.

Art historians have commented that this work was arguably the most influential Netherlandish painting of Christ's crucifixion, and that it was copied and adapted on a large scale in the two centuries after its completion. The emotional impact of the weeping mourners grieving over Christ's body, and the subtle depiction of space in Van der Weyden's work have generated extensive critical comments.

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Chris Webb,
Sep 10, 2011, 7:20 AM
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