Philippe de Champaigne - Angels weeping over the corpse of Christ, 17th century
Oil on canvas
142 x 193 cm
In monumental size the French court painter Philippe de Champaigne (*26.5.1602 Brussels -12.8.1674 Paris) paints for Henry IV the Lamentation of Christ after the removal of his body from the cross. Champaigne paints two putti, winged boy figures, and a female angel looking devoutly into the sky, mourning the maltreated corpse of Christ covered only by a loincloth. The artist uses the effect of light and shadow to model the bodies more clearly and to lend the scene an expressive mood. This type of painting is particularly popular in Baroque painting.
However, the corpse is usually held by Mary in her arms and not by an angel, as in de Champaignes' work. The angel's blue robe, however, could be a reference to the Mother of God, for the colour blue has always been one of the most valuable colours in art. This is due to the difficulty of producing blue, which made it a precious commodity. The colour blue symbolically finds its origin in the Old and New Testaments, where it is associated as the colour of the sky but also that of water. Thus it connects the divine with the earthly and thus acts as a mediator between God and man. The angels also have this function. As heavenly beings they are sent to earth to transmit the divine power to man.
The colour gold, which appears in de Champaignes' work on the bowl in the foreground, also has a deeper meaning. Gold was considered the colour of the divine and symbolizes its glory. These two symbolic colours reinforce the Christology that de Champaigne wishes to express in his work.