JOUVENET, Jean-Baptiste
(b. 1644, Rouen, d. 1717, Paris)

The Raising of Lazarus

Oil on canvas, 388 x 664 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The huge Raising of Lazarus, one of four vast canvases painted by Jouvenet early in the eighteenth century for the church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in Paris, is a tour-de-force of hes realistic vein combined with the elevated and idealized. Here the figure of Christ is somewhat over-bland and insufficiently assertive amid the agitated crowd gathered around the looming rocks of the tomb, but Mary, the sister of Lazarus, takes on the role of heroine, distressed yet decorous, and very consciously posed, in garments of gleaming white, gold, and green, to hold the centre of the stage. She is the embodiment of French academic classicism and could serve in comparable guise in many other pictures of the period. What she gestures towards, however, is dramatic in a different idiom: the stark moment of Lazarus's return from the dead, with him awakening in the deep cavernous gloom of his burial-chamber, lit only by a single torch, and experiencing hardly less violent and painful astonishment than do the figures gaping around him.