About the Artwork
Death and resurrection
Morning dawns. Wrapped in his cerements, Christ is seated on his sarcophagus. Behind him are two supporting angels, joining him in song. Stigmata on the hands and feet of Christ show that he has been crucified. Even so, he is not dead, but alive.
The mountain landscape behind Christ is divided into two worlds. On the one side, the sun is rising, serving as a symbol of the resurrection. On the other side is the Calvary where he was crucified. Life and death are equal parts of the world he inhabits.
The various elements in Christ as the Suffering Redeemer symbolise several things at one and the same time. The sarcophagus, which is his coffin, appears more like an altar or a throne. The gesture of this extended hand brings with it associations of the Holy Communion; here he offers up himself to us as a means of absolution and eternal life. Christ is both sacrifice, saviour, and king.
Resurrected, Christ is not just the symbol of God's existence; he also symbolises the rebirth of bygone days in Mantegna's picture. His vivid, animated face is attached to a perfect, idealised body. His torso has been depicted like a Classical marble sculpture, white and sublime in its chiselled, muscular form. Similarly, the stone quarry in the cave beneath the Calvary refers to the sculptures of Antiquity.