“The Raising of Lazarus” by Rembrandt, depicts the scene from the New Testament Bible in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11. Rembrandt also made drawings and etchings of this subject, but with differing compositions. The scene is in a tomb with Christ standing in the cave with his hand raised to perform the miracle. Rembrandt represents Lazarus’s rising as caused by Christ’s forceful gesture and his faith. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha look on in amazement, as do the other spectators.
The astounded witnesses’ expressions record successive states of awareness and awe. The dramatic darkness of the cave is in contrast to the subtle colours in the costumes. The glinting highlights of the quiver and scabbard hanging on the wall were Lazarus’ weapons, as according to mediaeval legend, Lazarus was a soldier.
“The Raising of Lazarus” etching by Rembrandt – 1642 from the Rijksmuseum Museum
Rembrandt painted and drew many stories and parables of the Bible as recognisable and familiar images. The Dutch Reformed Calvinism at Rembrandt’s time forbade religious art in churches. Thus there were limited public commissions for paintings of biblical subjects. Fortunately, private patronage for them thrived, and Rembrandt tapped into this demand.
Rembrandt’s paintings have influenced many successive painters, including Van Gogh who also painted a picture called “The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)”, based on a print of the Rembrandt image. Van Gogh depiction left out the central figure of Christ with his arm raised he focused on the human suffering and identified with Lazarus in the tomb. Lazarus in the Van Gogh painting below, has a red beard, just like Van Gogh.
The Raising of Lazarus after Rembrandt by Vincent van Gogh (1890)
- Title: The Raising of Lazarus
- Artist: Rembrandt
- Year: 1630-1632
- Medium: Oil on oak panel
- Dimensions H: 96.4 cm (38 in). W: 81.3 cm (32 in).
- Museum: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
- Born: 1606 – Leiden, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands)
- Died: 1669 (aged 63) – Amsterdam, Dutch Republic (Netherlands)
- Nationality: Dutch
- Movement: Dutch Golden Age, Baroque
- Notable Works:
“A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.” Rembrandt
Photo Credit: 1) Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Vincent van Gogh [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons 3) Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons