The Dead Christ with Angels, 1864
Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883)
Oil on canvas; 70 5/8 x 59 in. (179.4 x 149.9 cm)
Signed and inscribed: (lower left) Manet; (lower right, on rock) évang[ile]. sel[on]. St. Jean / chap[ître]. XXv.XII (Gospel according to Saint John, chapter 20, verse 12)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.51)
This was the first of several paintings by Manet with a religious theme. The inscription indicates Manet's source, but the passage he cited describes Mary Magdalene finding Christ's tomb empty except for the two angels. After the painting was already on its way to the 1864 Salon, Manet realized that he had made an even greater departure from the text: he depicted Christ's wound on the wrong side. He wrote to Baudelaire of his mistake, and the critic instructed him to correct the position of the wound in the painting before the exhibition opening, adding, "take care not to give the malicious something to laugh at."
Manet did not repaint the wound, and the malicious laughed. Only Émile Zola gave the painting the respect it deserved. Zola felt that Manet's intention was to emphasize the reality of the corpse, even though he called attention to its holiness by including a halo.