The Phillbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma displays a variety of different pieces in a beautiful setting, showcasing paintings, sculptures and gardens among other peaceful places. The main museum is inside an old mansion, positioned in the middle of a perfectly manicured lawn and landscaped property. Consequently, this sets the tone for the showcasing of art from Europe, as the architecture of the building is reminiscent of many old European styles. Inside, the artwork is featured in groups depending on the nationality of the artist or the time period; however, each room may have both paintings and sculptures to take up the space. Overall, the museum itself is a very peaceful place to reflect and observe pieces of artwork. The most striking painting in this museum is entitled “The Entombment of Christ” by Luca Giordano, an Italian painter who lived between 1634 and 1705 (Museum of Fine Arts, 2017).
Giordano was an Italian artist who demonstrated artistic prowess at a young age (National Gallery of Art). As advocates of the arts, his parents allowed him to take up painting lessons with renowned teachers in the area in order to refine his skills. He then continued his education in Europe, allowing him to study with other talented painters. For the most part, he studied Renaissance artists, as he was particularly interested in the style and subject matter of the pieces. Eventually, once he gained notoriety, he was commissioned many works by religious leaders and other members of the royal and upper classes, allowing him to spread and share his work with many people. Although his style changed significantly over time because he was influenced by different places in Europe, Giordano eventually developed a unique style that is well-known to him today (Britannica, 2018). Today, he is recognized as one of the most prolific painters of his time.
Giordano’s painting “The Entombment of Christ” pays tribute to a specific event that is outlined in the Bible. Like many other Renaissance painters of the time, they were influenced by religious stories. In fact, many painters were specifically instructed to create sculptures or paint on the walls of churches, which is why many European churches are adorned with art. Consequently, it is likely that Giordano was influenced by these painters before him during the Renaissance period, as many of his works are also religious-oriented. It is evident that he took significant care in his brush strokes and work in general, as his people appear very realistic, almost like a photograph. Giordano wished to accurately depict this particular event from the Bible and chose to use a painting as his preferred medium because he believed it was the best way to carry out the project. On a canvas, he had the ability to bring it around to many places to show people or change the location if he wished, versus many similar religious paintings which were on the actual walls of cathedrals or other religious structures.
In this particular work, he uses more neutral colors which fit with the subject matter of the piece itself. In the painting, Jesus is being carried by two disciples as they prepare to bury him in the temple. Before this event, Jesus was in a lot of pain because he was crucified on the cross, giving up his life for those who would come after him. His followers were left to mourn his death, unable to do much to prevent him from being harmed. However, they are still able to pay tribute to his selfless and joyous deeds when he was alive by making sure he is properly buried. It is likely that the two men in this painting are distraught to have to carry Jesus to his temple to be buried. Therefore, Giordano thought it would be appropriate to use a darker tone for his painting. If the colors had been brighter, it would not have fit well with the theme because this is a story of sorrow and mourning. Additionally, Giordano paints shadows to suggest that there is more depth to the painting. Perhaps this represents the fact that the disciples felt very alone during this time.
An interesting aspect of this painting is the woman with long blond hair who seems to be cradling Jesus’ foot in her hands. Upon closer examination, one will notice the wounds in his feet from the nails that were used to place him on the cross. She also has a look of sorrow on her face because she is mourning her death. In religious works, painters would often depict beautiful women with long hair, suggesting that there is something more pure. Oftentimes, characters such as angels or other beautiful women would create a contrast in the painting, representing the fact that there is some joy in life, despite the fact that there may be sorrows along the way. Additionally, women are often used to represent more motherly figures. Although the two men are carrying Jesus to his temple to be buried, the fact that this woman is cradling Jesus’ feet suggests that she wishes to care for him and attend to his wounds to honor his memory, even though it is too late to save him.
During this time, the subject matter of artwork was very similar. When the Renaissance period in Europe broke out, most people tended to paint stories from the Bible or other religious events because society was very focused on that. There were certainly paintings after the fact that focused on members of the royal class and other real-life events; however, religion was very important to the Europeans. Despite these apparent differences in subject matter over time due to artistic demand and other societal changes, the style of the actual art remained the same. Artists preferred to paint things that demonstrated the human condition. In other words, it was more popular to paint or sculpt people than objects or landscapes. Artists believed that it was more interesting and appropriate to have artwork that displayed these things in order to pay tribute to religious leaders and the everyday lives of civilians.
Overall, Giordano’s painting is very meaningful, especially during a time when religion was very popular. Everyone is familiar with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, so this was a common subject to paint during the time. Since his work is on canvas, he did not intend for it to be touched or have any interactive elements. However, through his smooth brush strokes and attention to detail, he was able to create something very realistic that pays attention to the space and makes everything seem three-dimensional. Overall, this is a beautiful Italian painting, paving the road for many artists to come.
- Britannica. (2018, October 14). Luca Giordano. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Luca-Giordano
- Museum of Fine Arts. (2017, November 03). Retrieved from https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-entombment-of-christ-32022
- National Gallery of Art. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.2529.html
- Philbrook Museum of Art – Tulsa, OK. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://philbrook.org/