With That, He Bowed His Head and Gave Up His Spirit

So last year I didn’t do this as I was too busy, but every year prior I have always reviewed different portrayals of Christ for Easter.

I am a Christian, and I received a major in art history and history, so it is time to put those to work.

Typically, I have reviewed more images, but Easter snuck up on me this year. So we only have two planned.

Gero Crucifix from Cologne Cathedral

Today is Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified, only to be resurrected three days later. The piece I choose today is from the early Medieval period. The Gero Crucifix was created in 970 and brought to Cologne Cathedral by Archbishop Gero, hence were the name comes from.

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 Nazareththe 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.”John 19:19-22

“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

This is an important piece of art as it is the oldest surviving monumental sculpture of crucifixion to date. This is a gigantic piece, about 6 feet tall to make it seem more lifelike.

This is an incredibly emotional piece, the way it is created to really capture the text of the bible. In this we can see the great pain he went through: blood dripping down on his forehead, his body is leaning downwards in pain as he can no longer fight gravity pulling him down, his twisted body, the strain on his arms-all the pain and suffering he would have gone through.

He looks extremely vulnerable, no powerful halo or other imagery (although there was some gold pieces added later on). There was a crown of thorns to continue to add to the pain he went through, but it has gone missing through time.

What also makes this a powerful piece, besides size and the imagery, is that this is a reliquary-the head had a chamber where they would store the Eucachrist. Wow-think how powerful that would be, to take in communion and have the bread come from Christ’s body.

Well, I hope you all have a great Good Friday and Easter, however you all celebrate it.

For more Crucifixions, go to At Noon, Darkness Came Over the Whole Land…

For more artwork, go to He is Not Here; He Has Risen

The Betrayer’s Kiss

So the next image is going to cover the betrayal of Christ in the garden of Gethsemene and his sentence before Pilate. Now last year I chose the revolutionary, and in my opinion better image, Giotto’s The Kiss of JudasHowever, this year I have chosen the more widely accepted image (of the time) Duccio’s Betrayal of Christ.

Betrayal of Christ Duccio

This image is part of the Maestá Altarpiece created 1308-1311. This image is one of the many scenes of the life of Christ that are located on the back. Now contrary to Giotto’s work, this one is closer to flat Byzantine style, has no perspective, as in the spacing to create realistic distances, and is very staged. To the left we have the scene where Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek, to show the Pharisee’s which one is Jesus. Duccio put this scene in the middle to grab the viewers attention, but doesn’t try to create a world around him, instead only trying to make a beautiful image. All the characters in the back who are angry anf after Jesus are emotionless and unconnected to the scene. They also are arranged funny, as to not overlap.

To the far left is the scene of Peter cutting the ear of one who is attacking Jesus. What is written as an exciting tale, as Peter the impulsive hothead strikes at a guard to protect his teacher, only to be rebuked as Jesus’ heals the man. While Giotto made it more dramatic, in Duccio’s piece not only does it look extremely hard and impossible for Peter to cut of the ear from that angle, but he also doesn’t seem involved in the action, more of doing it half-heartedly. It reminds me of how Caravaggio did the Judith Slaying Holofernes story. In his image,  Judith is squemish and not really feeling it, unlike the story and Artemisia Gentileschi’s (in which Judith totally kicks butt).

To the far right we have the fleeing of the disciples, as they are scared at what might happen to them after Jesus is captured, well actually willingly taken.

All in all I do not like this particular image. It is flat, with a gold background that only adds to make one have no sense of perspective. The trees and mountains appear to be randomly placed there instead of having the purpose of adding to the image. None of the charaters seem involved in the story or with each other, as none seem to connect or react to the actions. This tranquil scene is a far cry from the Giotto masterpiece that completely evoked one’s emotion. But at the time this was highly popular as beauty won over technique, along with perspective and emotional connections not really being popular concepts with most artists.

“Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.”–Mark 14:43-46

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear…Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’     –John 18: 10-11

“And he [Jesus] touched the man’s ear and healed him.”–Luke 22: 51

“Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” –Matthew 26: 52-56

To go to the previous Easter posts click on Do This in Remembrance of Me

Good Friday

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 huge 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 triangles 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 commissioned 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 throughout the image but the most significant being:
    • God and the two donors
    • Jesus, Mary (in purple) and John the Beloved (in a pinky hue)
    • 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.

To further the message of Christ on the cross, on the bottom is a skeleton and tombstone; a reminder that soon you will be dead, and should consider where you want to end up. Will you be like the thief that repented and went to Heaven, or will you be like the other thief, headed downward.

300px-Masaccio,_trinità

“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…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: 32-34 and 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

 

For more Easter posts, go to The Betrayal of Christ

For more Good Friday posts, go to Elevation of the Cross

The Betrayal of Christ

And our journey to Easter continues along…

So the next part I am going to cover is the betrayal of Christ in the garden of Gethsemene and his sentence before Pilate. I chose Giotto’s image, The Kiss of Judas, because historically it is one of the best images that portrays this scene. 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.

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 would eventually copy.


Giotto1

“Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.”–Mark 14:43-46

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear…Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’– John 18: 10-11

“And he [Jesus] touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Luke 22: 51

“Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”–Matthew 26: 52-56

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For more on Giotto, go to The Triumphal Entry

For more Easter posts, go to The Last Supper

For more paintings on Christ being betrayed, go to The Betrayer’s Kiss