Noli Me Tangere/Soldiers at the Tomb by David Jones

David Jones

Noli Me Tangere/Soldiers at the Tomb, 1922, Engraving, 762 x 889 mm, Private Collection, © Estate of David Jones / Bridgeman Images; Photo: courtesy of JHW Fine Art

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A Eucharistic Blessing

Commentary by

David Jones’s 1922 engraving of the Noli Me Tangere—created just a year after his conversion to Roman Catholicism—resonates with sacramental and liturgical overtones. Christ stands over Mary in an unmistakably priestly posture, with his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing; at the same time, his left hand is held up both to prevent her from touching him, and to show her the scars from his suffering. Mary, meanwhile, kneels before her Lord as if at an altar rail, with her hands raised to receive the gift of blessing that Christ offers to her. Her eyes are fixed on his wounds with unyielding devotion, calling to mind the Catholic liturgy of Benediction (in which the Blessed Sacrament is brought forth for adoration). It is as if the living and resurrected Christ is the Eucharist, a real presence whose miraculous resurrection triumphs over death.

As he prepares for his impending physical departure from the world, Jesus shows himself to Mary in such a way as to remind her that he will remain with the faithful in and through the life of the Church.

Jones foreshadows Christ’s imminent withdrawal from this world—and from Mary in particular—by imagining their encounter at a literal point of juncture: the Magdalene kneels on a small patch of grass at a fork in the road, implying that Christ will soon depart in one direction, and that she will set off in the other. Yet this moment in the garden reminds us she will be sent with Christ’s blessing and commission to be his servant in the world after he has ascended. Perhaps the artist wishes to remind the beholder of this work that she, too, is blessed and commissioned by God through her participation in the liturgy.

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