Jan Brueghel the Younger
1601 - 1678
Noli me tangere
Oil on copper
23.5 × 37.5 cm. (9 ¼ × 14 ¾ in.)
Framed Dimensions:41.5 x 56 cm. (16 3/8 x 22 1/8 in.)
Provenance:Private Collection, France, until 2015.
Further information:Johnny Van Haeften is submitting to the exhibition "Revolution & Renewal" a painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger depicting the biblical episode known as "Noli me tangere" (touch me not). The Gospel according to St. John relates that after the Resurrection Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene as she stood weeping by the empty tomb. At first she did not recognise him, but supposed him to be a gardener. When he called her by name she recognised him, however, he bade her not to touch him but to go to the disciples with the message that he was now risen.
In Brueghel's interpretation, Jesus appears to Mary in a garden - an allusion to John's remark that at first Mary mistook him for a gardener. Jesus stands before her, draped in a brilliant red robe and holding a spade in one hand: the wounds of the Crucifixion are clearly visible on his body. The painting captures the moment of recognition when Mary reaches forward to embrace Jesus, but is cautioned not to touch him. Mary and Jesus are surrounded by pots of flowering plants and clumps of tulips, artichokes and aquilegias. A basket and a wheelbarrow laden with garden produce stand close by: radishes and freshly cut artichokes are strewn across the ground. On the hillside behind, a little group of figures may be seen before the entrance to the empty tomb - a reference to the slightly earlier episode in the narrative. Three crosses silhouetted against the skyline serve as a reminder of the Crucifixion three days earlier.
The subject of this painting corresponds to the theme "Revolution & Renewal" because in the first instance Christ's Resurrection represents a renewal of life and is the key event that conferred upon Jesus the status of God in the eyes of his followers. Secondly, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus sparked a revolution in religious faith that subsequently gave rise to a new religion - Christianity.