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Quite one of the loveliest designs of the series. It was a favourite subject with Giotto; meeting, in all its conditions, his love of what was most mysterious, yet most comforting and full of hope, in the doctrines of his religion. His joy in the fact of the Resurrection, his sense of its function, as the key and primal truth of Christianity, was far too deep to allow him to dwell on any of its minor circumstances, as later designers did, representing the moment of bursting the tomb, and the supposed terror of its guards. With Giotto the leading thought is not of physical reanimation, nor of the momentarily exerted power of breaking the bars of the grave; but the consummation of Christ’s work in the first manifesting to human eyes, and the eyes of one who had loved Him and believed in Him, His power to take again the life He had laid down. This first appearance to her out of whom He had cast seven devils is indeed the very central fact of the Resurrection. The keepers had not seen Christ; they had seen only the angel descending, whose countenance was like lightning: for fear of him they became as dead; yet this fear, though great enough to cause them to swoon, was so far conquered at the return of morning, that they were ready to take money-payment for giving a false report of the circumstances. The Magdalen, therefore, is the first witness of the Resurrection; to the love, for whose sake much had been forgiven, this gift is also first given; and as the first witness of the truth, so she is the first messenger of the Gospel. To the Apostles it was granted to proclaim the Resurrection to all nations; but the Magdalen was bidden to proclaim it to the Apostles.
In the chapel of the Bargello, Giotto has rendered this scene with yet more passionate sympathy. Here, however, its significance is more thoughtfully indicated through all the accessories, down even to the withered trees above the sepulchre, while those of the garden burst into leaf. This could hardly escape notice when the barren boughs were compared by the spectator with the rich foliage of the neighbouring designs, though, in the detached plate, it might easily be lost sight of.
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