PACHER, Michael
(b. ca. 1435, Bruneck, d. 1498, Salzburg)

St Wolfgang Altarpiece: Resurrection of Lazarus

Tempera on wood, 175 x 130 cm
Parish Church, Sankt Wolfgang

The picture shows one of the panels of the St Wolfgang Altarpiece.

The Resurrection of Lazarus deviates from iconographical tradition in a number of respects. Firstly, the scene is moved into an indoor setting whose architecture reveals an astonishing mixture of contemporary forms borrowed from both the sacred and the secular spheres. Secondly, the narrative unfolds not from left to right, but from foreground to background. It is true that Lazarus' sisters are kneeling parallel to the pictorial plane in the foreground, and that Christ is gesturing in the same direction, but Lazarus himself is seen from behind and foreshortened towards the rear. The main lines of the composition reinforce this inward movement - the vaulted canopy above the tomb, for example, the arrangement of the figures into lines resembling a guard of honour, and finally the view through the arch in the central axis out into the distant landscape. The New Testament subject is effectively obliged to take place in this demonstration of the painter's supreme mastery of perspective.

Pacher must undoubtedly have studied the works of Mantegna, and the figure of Lazarus almost seems to anticipate the latter's Dead Christ (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan). The principle underlying Pacher's composition points even further into the future, however, insofar as the vanishing lines converge not upon one central object or figure, but rather allow the eye to escape, as it were, out into the open countryside.

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