Other paintings

'Christ Pantocrator' (Christ the Almighty)

Images of Christ

Annunciation, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 1850

The Annunciation

The Virgin of the Veil, Aambrogio Borgognone, 1500

The birth of Jesus

Father and Son, by Corbert Gauthier

The family of Jesus

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, Peter Paul Rubens & Jan Brueghel the Younger, 1628

Martha, Mary & Lazarus

Sculpture, Mary Magdalene turns to look at the risen Christ

Mary Magdalene

Michael Belk, photograph, detail

Jesus and children

Entry into Jerusalem, mosaic, Palermo cathedral

Entry into Jerusalem

Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1875, detail

Cleansing of the Temple

The Last Supper, Pierre Dancart, Seville Cathedral

The Last Supper

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, painting by Heinrich Hofmann, 1890

Agony in the Garden

The Kiss of Judas, (El Beso de Judas), Francisco Salzillo, carving, 1754

The Kiss of Judas

'Ecce Homo' (Behold the Man), Antonio Ciseri

Jesus and Pontius Pilate

The Crown of Thorns, Cranach

The Passion

Crucifixion, painting by Francis Bacon, 1933

The Crucifixion

The Pieta, sculpture by Michelangelo

Descent from the Cross

Burial of Christ by Caravaggio, detail of the face of Mary, mother of Jesus

The burial of Jesus

Bramantino, The Resurrected Christ, 1490

The Resurrection

Christ as portrayed in 'Passion of the Christ' movie

Modern images of Jesus


Events in the life of Jesus Christ

Life of Jesus

Jesus' ancestors


Birth of Christ

Shepherds & Angels

Wise Men/Magi

Flight to Egypt

The Lost Boy

Jesus' Ministry 


Rejection at Nazareth


Wedding at Cana

Gerasene Demoniac

Jairus' Daughter

Loaves & fishes



Ten popular parables

The Good Samaritan

The Prodigal Son

The Rich Fool

Parable of the Seeds

Trial & Death

Entry into Jerusalem

Cleansing the Temple

Betrayal by Judas

The Last Supper

The Garden of Olives

Annas and Jesus

Caiaphas: the Trial

Peter's Denial

Herod and Pontius Pilate

The Scourging of Jesus

Death Sentence

Way of the Cross


Jesus on the cross

Jesus dies

Burial of Jesus



Magdalene at the Tomb

Peter and John

Doubting Thomas









Bible Paintings - Jesus is taken down from the cross


Home                                                                   Hidden meanings                                                              The gospel description 


Jesus' friends pried his dead body off the cross and lowered it into the arms of his mother Mary, and into the care of the disciples, mostly women, who waited on the slopes of Golgotha.

The 'Pieta' by Michelangelo

The 'Pieta' by Michelangelo


'Descent from the Cross', Rogier Weyden

'Descent from the Cross', Rogier Weyden

'Descent from the Cross', Rogier Weyden


'Descent from the Cross', Max Beckmann 1917

'Descent from the Cross', Max Beckmann 1917



'Descent from the Cross', Jean Jouvenet

'Descent from the Cross', Jean Jouvenet


'Descent from the Cross', Pieter Coeck van Aelst

'Descent from the Cross', Pieter Coeck van Aelst


'Descent from the Cross', Charles Le Brun

'Descent from the Cross', Charles Le Brun


'The Descent from the Cross', Tintoretto

'The Descent from the Cross', Tintoretto

Tintoretto presented the people in his paintings as individuals, capturing the moment as they experienced it. The descent from the cross was no longer a tableau with static figures, as it had been in Botticelli's paintings. Look at Mary's face. Unlike Jesus, she is still living, and suffering terribly. Her eyes have seen more than a mother can endure, and she has retreated into a semi-conscious state.


'The Descent from the Cross', Peter Paul Rubens, 1612

'The Descent from the Cross', Peter Paul Rubens, 1612


'The Descent from the Cross', James Tissot

'The Descent from the Cross', James Tissot


'Descent from the Cross', Peter Paul Rubens

'Descent from the Cross', Peter Paul Rubens

'Deposition from the Cross', Pontormo

'Deposition from the Cross', Pontormo


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Crucifixion  what's the archaeological evidence?

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Evil men in the gospels
Herod, Pilate, Judas

Murders in the Bible
Jesus, John the Baptist

Famous Bible movies
The life of Jesus Christ



Paintings by

Pieter Coeck van Aelst

Max Beckmann 

Charles le Brun

Jean Jouvenet



Peter Paul Rubens (1)

Peter Paul Rubens (2)


James Tissot

Rogier Weyden (1)

Rogier Weyden (2)



Hidden meanings   in paintings of the Descent from the Cross
  • Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich and respected member of the Sanhedrin - the Jewish legislative council in Jerusalem - and secretly a disciple, obtained permission from Pilate, the Roman governor, to take the body of Christ from the cross. He brought a linen sheet and together with Nicodemus who brought myrrh and aloes to preserve the body, took it down from the cross.

  • We see the nails being removed from the body, or the body being lowered from the cross. 

  • There are usually four people involved: Nicodemus with pincers drawing the nail from the left hand, Joseph taking the weight of the body, Mary holding the right hand which is already free, and the apostle John standing sorrowfully a little apart.  

  • From the 16th century and especially in later painting of the Spanish Netherlands the cross is viewed aslant, there are often four ladders, and two unidentified men lean over the cross-bar lowering the body to Joseph and Nicodemus. Mary Magdalene kneels, and there is a third woman, Mary the wife of Clopas. The instruments of the Passion lie on the ground: the crown of thorns, nails, and sometimes the inscripion and sponge. The body may be lowered to the ground by sliding it down a long winding-sheet.

  • Joseph and Nicodemus can be distinguished by their dress. The former is richly clad, in contrast to the latter who is of more lowly appearance. In supporting the body Joseph takes the upper part, Nicodemus the lower. St John is of youthful appearance, often long-haired. 

  • Prior to the Counter- Reformation the Virgin is sometimes seen swooning into the arms of her companions, but in later works she stands, perhaps clasping her hands.

  • Mary Magdalene, important in the Counter-Reformation as an example of Christian repentance, is a major figure.She is richly dressed and may wipe Jesus' feet with her luxuriant hair.


The Bible text:   Christ is taken down from the Cross

Matthew 27:57-58

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathe'a, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

Mark 15:42-46

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathe'a, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Luke 23: 50-54

50 Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathe'a. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.

John 19:38-40

38 After this Joseph of Arimathe'a, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicode'mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds' weight. 40 They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

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Bible Art: Paintings and Artworks from the New Testament:  Jesus crucified, the Descent from the Cross

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Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher