Edouard Manet, Dead Christ with Angels, 1866–67

2018 069 V0001Edouard Manet (French, 1832–1883), Dead Christ with Angels, 1866–67, etching and aquatint on laid paper, 17 ½ x 14 ¼ inches (sheet). Acquired with funds provided by the May Walters Purchase Fund, 2018.069

In all his career, Manet produced only two religious subjects. Dead Christ with Angels is one of them. He made the etching after his painting (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) that was exhibited at the Salon of 1864. Critics panned the painting for its vulgarity and the cadaver-like quality of the figure. One of the proponents of realism and modernism, Manet usually chose to depict only those things that could actually be seen. The angels and Christ’s halo included in this image are an anomaly in his work.

 

As with his other subjects, Manet flattens the image, compressing the space and emphasizing the paper’s two-dimensional quality. His works, both painted and printed, were called “flat like playing cards” and illustrate the growing trend towards abstraction. This exploration of “art for art’s sake” became the hallmark of modernism.

 

This etching was never published during Manet’s lifetime. Rather, the original plate passed from Manet to the Parisian publisher Henri Guérard, who pulled a very few impressions. The plate, which was never cancelled, is now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

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