It has the imposing title, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.
More often than not it’s just referred to by the shortened form, The Disciples or Les Disciples.
You won’t find it in the Louvre or the Met or the National Gallery. It hangs tucked away in an old railway station in Paris, now the Musée d’Orsay, on the left bank of the Seine.
It was painted in 1898 by a relatively little known Swiss artist named Eugène Burnand. He was something of an old-fashioned realist at a time when all the cool kids were embracing modernism. The Disciples didn’t make a splash when it was first hung. Burnand’s style was already considered passé by the 1890s.
But those who take the time to find it in the d’Orsay come away saying that viewing the canvas is akin to a spiritual experience. Some say it is the greatest Easter painting ever made.
Scroll up and look again at the picture.
As the first blush of dawn is tinting the clouds, Peter and John are rushing to the tomb of Christ. They’ve just been told by Mary Magdalene that she and the other women found it empty, that Christ has risen. Her words are ringing in their ears. But their faces and their bodies reveal they aren’t sure they can believe her.
John, the younger of the two, wrings his hands together anxiously. He was with Jesus when he died on the cross, the only disciple to stay by his side to the end. He looks as if he can barely bring himself to believe that Christ might be alive again . . .
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