Art that comforts

Vatican Museums: Caravaggio’s Deposition of Christ

Recognized as a masterpiece ever since its creation, the Deposition of Christ by Caravaggio, housed in the Vatican Museums, represents the drama of Christ’s death in a play on light and darkness, as His body acts as the cornerstone of the Church.

Caravaggio, Desposition of Christ, altarpiece, oil on cloth, 1600-1604 ca., Vatican Museums Art Gallery © Musei Vaticani

© Musei Vaticani
© Musei Vaticani

A cry tears through the silence of Good Friday. It is Mary of Cleophas with her arms lifted up to heaven. Mary Magdalene cries with her in despair; the face of the elderly Mother of Jesus is etched with pain; and John embraces and caresses the lifeless and bruised body of the beloved Master. Nicodemus helps him with his eyes turned towards the onlooker. It is almost a high-relief that emerges from the darkness and captures the moment when death seems to have won, flooded by the light of grace. Caravaggio's Deposition in the Vatican Art Gallery was painted for the New Church of the Oratorians in Rome between 1602 and 1604. The contrast of light and shadow amplify the emotional impact, as does the angle of the stone of the tomb: it is a discarded stone, a stone for the anointing of the lifeless body, the cornerstone of the future Church. The Eucharistic value of the concreteness of the Body of Christ, recalling Michelangelo, is at the center of Caravaggio's reflection which, with the expressive power of this canvas, immediately recognized as a masterpiece, has inspired generations of artists.

Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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31 March 2021, 09:00