Edouard Manet, 1865
Oil on Canvas
74 7/8 x 58 3/8 inches
Photo by RJ Molyneux-Davis, July 2009
Discussion: Parisian nineteenth century art critic Gautier points out Manet’s Christ is as dirty as the prostitutes working in Paris in the 1860's. It would be easy to associate Manet’s dirty Christ with Renan’s recently published work Vie de Jesus in which he represents Mary Magdalene as a hysterical woman who, by refusing to accept Christ’s death, perpetrated the myth of His resurrection. Jane Mayo Roos in her reading of Dead Christ with Angels, however, maintains that the painting is highly Biblical instead. Roos points out that Manet began his painting sometime after November ’63 when he had commented to his friend Abbé Hurel that he would base his Christ “with the angels, a variation on the scene of the Magdalen at the sepulcher according to Saint John” (84). According to Beth Archer Brombert, Renan’s discussion of the Magdalen enraged the readers when he wrote: “Let us say that the powerful imagination of Mary of Magdala played a capital role in this event. Divine power of love! Sacred moment in which the passion of a hallucinating woman gave the world a resuscitated God!” (rpt in Brombert 149). Brombert further points out that even one of Manet’s critics had associated Renan with the Christ: “Do not miss M. Manet’s Christ or the Poor Miner pulled out of a peat bog, painted for M. Renan” (151).