LUCA SIGNORELLI: The Resurrection of the Flesh, 1499 – 1502, Fresco, Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto
‘If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit that dwells in you.’ (Romans 8:11)
The Resurrection of the flesh forms the culmination of the proclamation of the Christian creed. In continuation of his depiction of the Apocalypse, Signorelli enlivens this tenet of faith through the vigour of his brush and the liberty of his genius.
We are in the Chapel of San Brizio nestled within the Duomo at the heart of Orvieto, Italy. As soft light bathes the interior of the transept, we are welcomed into a world beyond time. It is the ‘Last Day’, ‘the End of the World’. Christ Parousia is close at hand. As we gaze upwards, gradually the skies begin to open to an unprecedented golden glow. Heaven seems to descend amidst a million twinkling stars. A host of cherubs are seen dancing to the tunes of grace.
The vagueness of their being brings clarity to the scene. Two mighty Archangels with robust wings cover the upper-half of the canvas. Their fluttering drapery, twirling ribbons render to the ‘rushing wind’ that envelopes them. The attached Crusader flags hover through the atmosphere. The Archangels are seen gazing at the planet while blasting the Last trumpet.
At the sound of Love’s call, the dead awaken from their earthly slumber. They miraculously rise up from the ground, heaving and breathing back to flesh. This is the afterlife they hoped for. They help and embrace each other while beholding the angels in absolute rapture.