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Raising of Lazarus

art jesus shown century

One of the most frequently represented subjects in art from the early Christian period onward, the *miracle of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life is recounted in the Gospel of *John . As a manifestation of *Christ’s power over *death, a sign prefiguring his own *Resurrection and the *Resurrection of the Dead at the *Last Judgment, the event assumed a prominent position in early Christian sepulchral art (e.g., catacomb frescoes and sarcophagi) and is found in all media through the Middle Ages. The earliest images depict Jesus standing and gesturing (often with a magic rod or cross staff) toward a small architectural structure (the opened tomb) within which is indicated a small standing figure wrapped like a mummy. In fourth-century examples, further figures may be shown either or both of Lazarus’s sisters, *Mary and *Martha, who had summoned Jesus when Lazarus fell ill. They are depicted kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Additional witnessing figures are included by the sixth century, often exhibiting gestures of amazement, and at least one figure will be shown holding his nose or covering his face against the smell of the corpse (which had been in the tomb for several days). In Byzantine art, the grave may be represented as a cave, and in western art of the eleventh century onward, Lazarus may be shown sitting up in, or climbing out of, a sarcophagus.
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