It was Sunday, the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus. Early in the morning, while it was yet dark, a young woman made her way to the rock-hewn tomb in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea. It was Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus had rescued from a life of sin. Much had been forgiven her, therefore she loved much. In her sorrow she came to visit the spot where the body of her crucified Master had been laid.

Great was her surprise to find that the stone placed at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away. In her perplexity, she ran to tell the disciples Peter and John. They all hurried back together to the garden, and the two men, entering the tomb, found it empty. Unable to explain the mystery, they presently returned home, leaving Mary still standing without the sepulchre weeping.

"And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

"And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."[33]

[33] Chapter xx. of the Gospel according to St. John, verses 11-17.

Our picture illustrates the story of that first Easter morning. Jesus has greeted Mary by name, and she has instantly recognized the Master. Sinking on her knees, she would have impulsively stretched out her hands to him, but he repels her with a gesture. Awe-struck, she gazes into his face, while he explains the message she is to carry to the disciples.

Prado Gallery, Madrid

The risen Lord is clad in but one garment, a heavy mantle, knotted at the waist. The upper part is slipping from his shoulders, leaving the torso bare. The beauty of the form reminds us of a Greek statue. On the ground beside him are some garden tools, a hoe and a spade, and beyond these lies a straw hat. These things explain why Mary, blinded and confused with weeping, supposed that it was the gardener who spoke to her.

The Master's attitude and gesture emphasize the meaning of his words. The body sways slightly to one side, as if shrinking from Mary's touch. He still holds his right hand outstretched, as when he said "Touch me not." And now he raises his left arm, and pointing heavenward declares that he is about to ascend to his Father. He seems to speak gently as to a child, and looks down into Mary's face with a smile.

The young woman is richly arrayed in a brocade dress, cut so as to show her beautiful neck and arms. A mass of wavy golden hair falls over her shoulders and upon her bosom. Her tapering wrists and delicate hands indicate gentle blood, but her features are somewhat heavy, and the face would not attract us by its beauty. The rapt expression of devotion is what makes it interesting. The whole attitude expresses complete self-forgetfulness.

The lithe and youthful figure of Christ recalls the boy we saw in a former picture journeying from Egypt. We can see that this is the man into whom that child is grown. We note again the high full forehead over which the parted hair is brushed in curves. Again, too, we see the small mouth with the gentle smile. The figure in general features resembles the Christ type which is illustrated in the picture of Ecce Homo.

In painting the figure of the risen Christ, the old masters were accustomed to give prominence to the nail prints in hands and feet, and the wound in his side. Correggio has not done this. Such signs of suffering were inconsistent with the joyous nature of his art. The subject of the picture is entirely a happy one, and he has kept out of it all evidences of the crucifixion, emphasizing rather the idea of the ascension.

In some artistic points our picture resembles the Madonna della Scodella. The pose of Christ is similar to that of Joseph, with one arm lifted up, and the other reaching down. Thus is formed the diagonal line which is at the basis of the composition. The right arm of Mary carries the line on to the lower corner of the picture.

The landscape setting makes a spacious background, and a large tree behind Christ throws his figure into relief.