(b. 1783, Düsseldorf, d. 1867, Berlin)

The Entombment of Christ

Oil on wood. 34 x 47 cm
Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen

In autumn 1811 Cornelius travelled to Rome, where he immediately joined the circle of the Nazarenes (Lukasbrüder) around Friedrich Overbeck and Franz Pforr. In their attitude to art, Cornelius found confirmation and extension of his views. Like them, he was convinced that it was necessary to revive in Germany a truly national and religious art. He shared their aversion to academy-taught classicism and saw the work of Raphael as a guide. The influence of Raphael's work was decisive in his efforts to revitalize religious art and can be seen in the most important religious pictures of his Roman period: the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins (1813–19; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf) and the Entombment (1819; Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen), which was based on Raphael's treatment of the subject (Galleria Borghese, Rome).

Cornelius's Entombment is a recreation of Raphael's The Entombment from 1507 in the Galleria Borghese at Rome. Raphael was considered the greatest artist of all time, but Cornelius was nevertheless aware that even the art of the incomparable Raphael did not perhaps in every respect live up to the demand for piety that had applied in the Middle Ages and which the Nazarenes were working to re-establish. Whereas Raphael's version is characterised by almost heroic action, Cornelius allows a simple, quiet sorrow to descend on his scene.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.