The Hours of Jean de Montauban

The Hours of Jean de Montauban Office of the Resurrection. Christ Risen from the Tomb; Descent to Hell, f. 110v-111r

Office of the Resurrection. Christ Risen from the Tomb; Descent to Hell, f. 110v-111r

This folio, which introduces the Office of the Resurrection and interrupts the sequence of intercessions of the saints, recovers the style of the preceding 108 folios, themselves interrupted in the two preceding folios. The interpretation of these two miniatures, for once, is immediately obvious. 

Above is Christ's departure from the tomb on Easter Morning, although it is still night. The guards are deeply asleep. Two seraphim float over the Resurrection, which is surrounded by a golden aureole. Christ is extracting himself from the open tomb and leaving on the side on which there are no sleeping soldiers, while looking back towards them. He holds a cross in his left hand and makes the sign of blessing with his right, while part of his blue cloak with its beautiful golden embroidered edging seems to float towards the spectator and the sleeping soldiers. The helmeted one on the left at the front has collapsed at the foot of the tomb against his red shield. Another in full armour, holding a spear, is on the other side of the open tomb, whose cover seems to have disappeared. The hands and arms of the Resurrected Christ are bleeding freely, as is the wound in his side. He still wears the crown of thorns, and in the distance is the town of Jerusalem.

Below is the descent of the Saviour, surrounded by light, to hell. With his torso naked, he walks with a victorious, decided pace towards the enormous gaping mouth of Hades, with its sharp teeth on both lower and upper jaw, crackling with flames, and housing a crowd of the dead, all naked and turning towards the Saviour. With the cross which he holds in his hand, he affirms the victory of life over death. With his left hand he grasps the stretched-out arm of a man flanked by a woman, most probably Adam and Eve, who often appear in the iconography on this subject at the head of the group of souls awaiting salvation. Behind them is a crowd of imprisoned souls whom Christ is going to bring out of hell, in addition to those who aspire to freedom and life eternal. In the mouth of hell, the Demon, Satan in person, shows his teeth and spits out fire, but prudently turns around and beats a retreat.

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