Description of the picture:
Apostles at the tomb of Christ – Francisco Ribalta. 1590s Canvas, oil. Ninety x 64.5 cm
This painting is one of many works on biblical themes. It reflects the moment when the followers of Christ, his apostles, came to the tomb and found it empty. The artist was able to vividly reflect the very moment of discovering the absence of a dead body and the final realization that the one whom they considered their teacher was a real God-man.
Different feelings mixed up on the faces of the apostles. Here, the shock mixed with the surprise of the young apostle John, who twisted his arms, deep sadness and concern – among gray-bearded old men. The composition of the picture is multi-figured, but in the foreground the viewer is fully accessible two full-length figures – the youngest of the apostles John and, obviously, Peter, a faithful follower of Christ. Compositionally, the figures are shifted to the side so that the viewer can see the reason for visiting the funeral cave – a stone coffin with folded mortal sheets. The background of the canvas is the dark and rough stone walls of the cave, almost invisible in the dark.
The color scheme of the picture is rich, but restrained. The brightest here are the cloaks of the apostles of rich and deep golden tones. The canvas uses the principle of contrasting chiaroscuro introduced in Caravaggio’s painting. Most of the picture is drowning in darkness, and prominent illuminated details give the figures volume, relief and dynamism.
The dark darkness of the cave and the sadness of the event itself seem to recede under the rays of a divine golden light pouring from the side of an empty stone sarcophagus. This can be seen from the illuminated fragments of the clothing of the holy elders and the shadows on the floor cast by the coffin. Although light falls from the side of the entrance to the cave, it is clear that these are not just the rays of the sun or moon. This is the divine light of revelation, which will help not to get lost in the darkness of ignorance and superstition."