Holy Women at the Sepulchre

Upon the arrival to the tomb, Mary and several other women came to find the stone at Jesus' tomb rolled aside and the body missing. Until the angel appeared, it was thought that someone had stolen the body.

Of all the paintings within the nave, this particular piece remains the most traditional in style. Though five or six women are named as being present at this moment it has become customary to depict three. The woman on the ground with long golden hair, holding the jar of spices is Mary Magdalene. The Virgin Mary is seen standing in prayer, with her hands clasped.

The angel sits upon the edge of the tomb, pointing to show that Christ has risen. The three crosses from the crucifixion are visible in the background and the appearance of plantlife represents new life, that Jesus has risen.

I personally believe that his image is meant to represent the despair felt by Mary upon first seeing that Christ's body is missing. The woman standing to the side of her places her hand on her chest, almost as if to draw the angel to her attention. As in the "Descent from the Cross," Mary's hands are clasped as if in despair. In most images, the women are show exhibiting the "Sign of Praise," where the hands are raised and palms facing outward. Instead Mary Magdalene almost seems to bring her elbow up as if to shield herself from this surprise. Also, the layout of St. Mary's itself tends to suggest that this is how the image is supposed to be viewed. You can read more about that particular portion here.