At Noon, Darkness Came Over the Whole Land…

“The Crucifixion” from  The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald

Today is Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified, only to be resurrected three days later. The piece I choose today is one of the most unforgettable images.

The Isenheim Altarpiece is a series of panels created for the hospital, Brothers of St. Anthony. It was painted in 1512-1516 (just over 500 years old) and is an enormous piece. This crucifixion scene is the outside panels, the one that would be shown all the time, except for special occasions that would merit it being open.

But before we get into the art, let’s look at the text:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” John 19:1-7

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth,the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:19-27

 “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” Mark 15:33-37

So  Grünewald follows the text, showing Christ on the cross, with Mary Magdalene, his mother, and John the Beloved. Mary faints at seeing her son’s death, and we see John catching her before she falls, showing that he is accepting his role as her son and going to take care of her for the rest of her days.

There are a few things that are not in the text but used to create a stronger presence. We have John the Baptist, (who was actually at this point in Christ’s life already dead), reminding us that he must decrease and Jesus must increase in our life as John was just preparing the foundation.

We also see the lamb near John the Baptist, a symbol of Christ being the innocent lamb and the last sacrifice. By the lamb is a chalice which is going to catch the blood of Christ, the Holy Grail.

 Grünewald creates an almost pure black background to signify the depths the Earth was plunged into when Christ took all past, present, and future sins upon him.

Now for what makes this a truly memorable piece, Grünewald’s depictions of Christ. St. Anthony is known for striving to help those afflicted with skin diseases, something that was incredibly powerful as most people who were suffering from such diseases were sent away from society. Because this was put in a hospital of people suffering a similar fate, Christ’s body is to mimic those in the hospital and show that he has encountered all that we have encountered, and that such pain is only temporary.

His body is truly a sight; full of pox, gaunt, ragged, limbs twisted (mimicking rigor mortis), skin green, and utterly in pain. It may be exaggerated in trying to sympathize with those who would be in the hospital, but it definitely makes you think about all the pain and torture he went through from being arrested to nailed on a cross.

For more Good Friday posts, go to The Death of Christ

For more crucifixion paintings, go to Elevation of the Cross 

For more paintings of Jesus, go to But This is Your Hour—When Darkness Reigns

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The Death of Christ

1500-Pieta Michelangelo

So happy Good Friday everybody. This year we have looked at very different mediums; a photograph, woodcut, and now a sculpture.

This piece is the Pietá by Michelangelo. He did this piece when he was extremely young, in his early twenties, and it shows his genius at sculpture. Even though Michelangelo could paint and sculpt, he never thought of himself as a painter. He always said that he saw the things he wanted to make in the marble, that it was alive and spoke to him; all it wanting was to be freed.

1500-Pieta Michelangelo

This piece is amazing. First of all it is not proportionate and Mary is too young; but Michelangelo wanted to create the essence of the person rather than the actual, realistic self. So let’s talk first about Mary.

We have the youthfulness of when she was told by an angel that she would be the mother of Christ. She is distraught at the death of her son, that she is holding his body in her lap.

Her body os much larger than Jesus’ is as to mimic the way the mother could hold a small child, their baby; which even though Jesus is an adult he is still her baby. Mary’s stance also mimics the way that mother’s would give birth in that time, the birthing stool. So in birth and death she is with her child.

Now let’s look at Jesus:

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In his face we see no life in him, but that he died with a smile on his lips. He has fulfilled the plan of God and the great sacrifice; to save us and have us reign in heaven forever.

Also look at his body and hair, not to mention the folds of his clothes. They just look so real. As if they are two people under a cloth rather than carved out of marble.

Many people didn’t believe that Michelangelo created such an advanced piece of art, so he went back and signed his name in a large script. This is one of the few pieces to bear his signature.

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”–Luke 23: 39-43

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.”–Mark 15: 33-36

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”–John 19: 30

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”–Matthew 27:51-54

“So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body…Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”–Mark 15: 42-46

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For more Good Friday posts, go to The Lamentation of Christ

For the previous painting, go to The Arrest

The Lamentation of Christ

So here is our final painting in our countdown to Easter. Last year for Good Friday I chose Peter Paul Reubens’ Elevation of the Cross, which showed placing Jesus on the cross. The year before I chose Masaccio’s Holy Trinity which depicted Jesus on the cross. This year I decided to do something different and chose a painting that takes place after Jesus has been hanging on the cross.

The painting I chose is by Mantegna Andrea and is called The Lamentation of Christ, but more commonly known as the Foreshortened Christ.

In this image, Jesus has been taken off the cross and his body has been laid out to be prepared for entombment. Andrea places the viewer at the foot of Christ, taking the position as one of the mourning. As we are at the foot of Christ, the perspective is different, giving our eye a shortened Christ.

Here we see a pale, unidealized Jesus, showing the life completely gone from him. We also see the wounds on his hands and feet, the wounds that were given to him to take away our sins. This Jesus also has a sparse beard, alluding to scripture in which it talks about how the centurions ripped his beard out before he was crucified.

To the far left we have two women mourning Jesus. One is Mary, his mother, who we can see the full face and anguish as she has lost her child. The other we can only see part of them, but it is John, also coming to grieve.

Mantegna_Andrea_lamentation of christ

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed…one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23: 32-34

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” …Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”–John 19: 19-27

shock_passion_of_the_christ

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”–Luke 23: 39-43

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.”–Mark 15: 33-36

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”–John 19: 30

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”–Matthew 27:51-54

“So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body…Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”–Mark 15: 42-46

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

For the previous painting post, go to The Taking of Christ

For more paintings on Jesus’ crucifixion, go to Elevation of the Cross

The Triumphal Entry

Hey, Happy Palm Sunday everyone!

Now I know that not all of you are Christian and celebrate it, but way back I told you all I was a Christian and it is a holiday I always celebrate. So the past two years I have picked different famous pieces of art depicting Jesus, but only starting with a portrayal of The Last Supper. This year I decided to be different and am starting with The Triumphal Entry, then doing The Last SupperBetrayal of Christ, and ending on a depiction of Good Friday.

So we are starting this year with a work from Giotto, Jesus Enters Jerusalem. Giotto was one of the pioneers of Renaissance, looking toward depicting art in a more natural sense, much different from the flat Byzantine style that his contemporaries like Duccio were doing.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem by Giotto

In this image the viewer is given “a window onto a world”; that is we are seeing the scene as we would in real life. People overlap each other, there is movement, emotions, etc. Giotto was the pioneer of creating these emotional realistic scenes, that later artists eventually copy.

So we have Jesus coming into town on a donkey, having chosen this animal as he has a message of peace, rather than war (a horse). You can also clearly see the excitement of the townspeople as their faces not only depict those emotions, but accurately shows the throwing of the robes on the ground, preparing the way for Jesus.

To help further the realistic image, we have the two trees creating a background. We also have people climbing those trees, picking palms to lay on the road, who are smaller than the people in the crowd. Now to those of you who are artist, you might think, no duh; but this was revolutionary. In fact, a lot of people didn’t like it at the time, but it eventually started a revolution in art.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Matthew 21:1-9

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For more on Palm Sunday, go to Path of Palms

For more of Giotto’s work, go to The Betrayal of Christ

Good Friday

I don’t know about any of you readers, but my family always celebrates Good Friday by not using electronics and trying to focus on God from the hours of 12-3; the times Christ hung on the cross and darkness covered the earth. Not every Christian celebrates this way, but my mom’s family did and it carried on to us.

So the image I wanted to focus on today is The Holy Trinity by Masacio. I did a report on this painting so it is a favorite of mine. Masacio is the first painter to use the rules of perspective in his works. His friend Brunelleschi was the one who came up with it and shared his ideas with Masacio. Masacio structures the fresco with the viewer in mind, making sure that the perspective was drawn according to the relation of how one would look up toward it.  Masacio also styled his painting so that it would resemble a side chapel, he studied the rest of the church and made the barrel vaults and coffers look just like the ones in the real church.

Like Leonardo, Masacio used the number three and triangles a lot. As the painting itself was about the Holy Trinity, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (3), creating a whole painting out of trianges and threes connected the physical and spiritual realms. First the painting is divided into three squares; the top of the image to about Christ’s mid-chest, from mid-chest to the groundline that the donors who cominissioned the painting (on the far right and far left) rest upon, and from that groundline to the bottom of the image. Many triangles are made throughiut the image but the most significant being God and the two donors, Jesus, Mary (in purple) and John the Beloved ( in a pinky hue), and Jesus and the two donors.

Masaccio recognized that using this method would not only improve the composition of his image but it would also make the spiritual tone stronger. There is a scripture in the Bible, in John 14:6, that says “No one gets through the Father except through me” and the use of pyramidal composition with the ascending line from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, and to the Father alludes to this passage.

At the bottom is a skeleton and tombstone; a reminder that soon you will be dead, and should consider where you want to end up.

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“They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”–Mark 15: 21-23

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed…one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23: 32-34

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” …Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he lovedstanding nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”–John 19: 19-27

shock_passion_of_the_christ

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”–Luke 23: 39-43

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.”–Mark 15: 33-36

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”–John 19: 30

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”–Matthew 27:51-54

“So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body…Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”–Mark 15: 42-46

“The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”–Matthew 27:62-66

To go to previous Easter posts click on Palm Sunday, The Last Supper or The Betrayal of Christ