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Lelio Orsi, The Walk to Emmaus

Key facts
Full title The Walk to Emmaus
Artist Lelio Orsi
Artist dates about 1511 - 1587
Date made about 1565-75
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 71.1 × 57.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1895
Inventory number NG1466
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Walk to Emmaus
Lelio Orsi

The Gospel of Luke tells how after the Crucifixion, Cleopas and another of Christ’s disciples set out from Jerusalem for the village of Emmaus. They were joined by a stranger who recounted the prophecies concerning the Messiah’s death and resurrection. It was not until the three ate together later at an inn in Emmaus that the disciples recognised the risen Christ (Luke 24: 13–29).

Lelio Orsi sets the episode on an overcast evening – bursts of light break through black clouds, casting a supernatural glow. One disciple clasps his belt while the other wrings his hands in anguish as Christ in the centre explains the prophecies. The small goldfinch in the bottom right-hand corner is a common symbol of the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion). The painting, which probably dates to about 1565–75, reveals Orsi’s interest in the work of Michelangelo, which he would have seen on an earlier trip to Rome.

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