(b. 1485, Venezia, d. 1547, Roma)

The Raising of Lazarus

Oil on canvas, 381 x 289 cm
National Gallery, London

Giulio de' Medici commissioned a Raising of Lazarus from Sebastiano del Piombo to donate to the cathedral of Narbonne, which owned a relic relating to the story. In his Gospel, St John divided the story of the miracle into three parts: Jesus bids the people taker the stone from the tomb, He tells Lazarus to rise, and then He tells him to unbind his shroud. Sebastiano shows the third of these commands.

Sebastiano's rivalry with Raphael is well exemplified by this ambitious painting, which is justly regarded as his most demanding effort, one that failed, however, to dislodge Raphael's primacy in Rome. The share that Michelangelo may have played in the conception of the picture is not known. Since Michelangelo was physically outside of Rome during its execution, he was only able to follow Sebastiano's progress by letter. The gesture of Christ towards Lazarus must be regarded as a paraphrase of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.