This version of the common theme Noli me Tangere was painted in c. 1525, by Antonio Allegri da Corregio, also known simply as Corregio. I chose this painting because it illustrates best, in my opinion, the analysis of the body in religion. The historical background of this painting is relevant to the analysis at hand, since it illustrates the philosophical and religious ideas of the time. This painting was produced during the Renaissance in Italy which means that the painter might have been influenced by the rediscovery of ancient texts, and probably because of the Black Death which greatly affected the population of Italy in the past. This had for consequence that, mostly thinkers, were dwelling on the importance of life on earth rather than the afterlife. And this we will see in the analysis of the painting.
If one analyses this painting in the perspective of the socio cultural situation of Italy in the 16th century, one will notice that the rise of humanism and the rediscovery of religion, because of the Renaissance, are probably two of the most important influences at the time. This might have influenced the picturing of Jesus as what looks like a substantive body instead of a spirit (even though he is not in a carnal state during his appearance) and, as I will analyse further at a later stage of this analysis, a man who does not want to be touched. Regarding the positioning of the body in religion, the body and its position, its balance, its movements, and the idea of bodies touching each other, have most importance; especially when it is in relation to the body of the Christ. As Jean-Luc Nancy points out in his text, Noli me Tangere: On the Raising of the Body, the formula ‘Noli me Tangere’ means ‘Do not touch me’. This, for the episode of the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalena, is quite crucial. For his ascension to the Father, Jesus needs to be ‘clean’, to use the expression of Nancy, and therefore he must not be touched. The thought of the Christ’s body as incorruptible is essential since it is the status to which we aspire during our life, so that when the time comes, we can also achieve a similar status as that of Christ. However, an interesting contrast to point out is that when Christ was alive, he could be touched by anyone and at the same time sometimes performing miracles by curing the sick with a single touch. But it is important to keep in mind that in the historical context, the body was perceived as something sinful. This can be seen in the many failures of the human race with, for example, Adam and Eve. The position of Christ’s hands is important for the message he is carrying to Mary: he will be joining the Father, and she must not touch him. As we can see, the hand on the left is positioned in this way in order to keep Mary at a distance, whereas the other points toward the Father. Another important concept is of course the complex notion of presence. This has been stressed by Pickstock and Nancy, since the appearance of Christ is in itself a vision that appears to the one who believes, as was said with the parables as examples. To explain it briefly, this presence of Christ is one that is not carnal, he is not a phantom and he is not completely dead. Therefore, what is he? This complex form of Christ is one that is fascinating to paint for artists, like Rembrandt for example. In another perspective, one might see the relationship between Mary and Christ as the image of his humanity, and the duality between his divinity (his duty to join the Father) and his humanity (his relationship to Mary). This can also be recognized in the episode as told in the Bible. In other versions of this episode, it happens that Christ touches in a rather sensual way the body of Mary, another form of showing the human relationship that existed between the two. All in all, art is used in order to illustrate the complexity of the body in religious episodes, such as the Noli me Tangere.
At this moment, the painting is exposed at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. If we consider this painting today, it is a rather well known painting, even though it might only be so for experts in the field. I, myself, had heard of the theme being painted but not of this particular version. Of course, this Noli me Tangere cannot be compared to works from Da Vinci or Buonarotti, two painters definitely more famous than Corregio. However, on a worldwide scale, the painting is certainly known in the western (Christian) countries, since many other countries of the world have different religions, history and socio cultural background, therefore the imagery of this painting might not be relevant to them.