Three Maries at the Tomb
181.7 cm x 150.5 cm (71 9/16 in. x 59 1/4 in.)
Jacopo Empoli (aka Jacopo Chimenti, Jacopo da Empoli)
(Florence, Italy, 1551 – 1640, Florence, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Oil on wood panel
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Blanton Ball Purchase, 2002
According to the Gospels, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Mary Salome went to Jesus’ tomb, only to find that his body was no longer there. To the puzzled women appeared an angel, clothed in a bright white robe, who told them that Jesus had risen from death.
This painting captures the dramatic moment with remarkable clarity. The monumental scale of the figures and the simplified composition draw the viewer to the scene. The three women’s facial expressions convey perplexity and amazement, and the angel’s parted lips and gesture animate his role as the messenger of the exciting news. To elucidate the angel’s message, the artist inserts another scene in the background—Jesus greeting the women who are on their way to Galilee to announce his resurrection to his disciples. Faced with the challenges posed by the Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Catholic Church encouraged such narrative clarity in art in order to communicate important doctrines effectively.