The Crucifixion through time (Dimitrios Kavalieratos)

Whatever your politics or religion, the image of Jesus Christ being crucified stirs the emotions. Even though the event occurred over 2000 years ago, it has affected the hearts and minds of countless artists over many different mediums. Wether the artist sees it as theology or mythology, the stunning ways that some of them have decided how to reveal this scene are touching, thought provoking, and run the gambit in different styles of visual art. 

This oil on canvas work by Hayez is unusual for a few reasons. The first is the position of the cross. As you will see through the rest of the collection, Christ is generally depicted perfectly centered and facing forward. The artist here angles the cross 45 degrees from the front. This allows for a better sense of unity between Christ and the loan other character at the foot, Mary Magdalene. That is the other strong point about the painting. It is the only painting in this collection that has a single person outside of Jesus. This depicts the personal relationship the sinner has with Jesus as he endures his passion.
Contrast plays an important part in this work by Veronese. While everything below and behind sits in shadows at the sadness of the scene, Christ is surrounded by a glowing light that displays the power of the cross over the darkness of sin and death. The emphasis placed on Jesus in this painting is very apparent thanks to this strong contrast.
The title for Botticelli's Mystic Crucifixion says it all. With the Father watching in Heaven above the city of Jerusalem on one side, and the demonic entities of hell swirling in the clouds to the right, we get a visual representation of the battle between good and evil being waged on the cross. At the foot of the cross is an angel flaying another demonic creature which is most likely a representation of Satan. Mary Magdalene or the Holy Mother is at the foot of the cross which is a common theme in this genre. The texture used in this painting is what makes it striking. It is very rough and implies the importance and difficulty of the the actions happening.
There is a very stylistic approach to the Passion scene with this work. Realism is replaced by more of a iconographic look and feel. John the Apostle, and both Marys as well as Jesus appear with the common halo represented in most iconography. At the foot of Jesus is a skull and bone representing the cross overcoming death despite Jesus' betrayal. Oddly, only John looks towards Christ as the two women look down in either shame or remorse. There is a certain balance to this work as all the parts are placed in a very symmetrical way.
This painting stands out for some unusual reasons. Besides the angels being depicted in blue, we see an unknown couple at Jesus' feet and Veronica holding her famous veil to the far right. The couple are the ones who commissioned the work and were added because of this. A practice not uncommon at the time. Color plays an important role as all the saints in this picture are clothed in strong primary colors. The blue of the angels most likely represents the sadness of the events occurring.
This colorful painting is the best representation of variety used throughout this gallery. The bright and dynamic colors carry the eye across the painting and tell several stories simultaneously. The confusion and chaos of the event is captured well by all of the activity and colors. Unusual to the typical Crucifixion depiction, Christ's Roman and Jewish captors, as well as his cohorts, are also included. In fact, it is they who stand under the cross as opposed to the Marys or John. Also startling is Jesus' appearance which is much more haggard than usual and he is even beardless. All the women are pale and their clothes are much closer to the fashion of the period the painting was created in as opposed to what it was 1400 years earlier. The two thieves on either side of Jesus tell an interesting story as one faces Christ and the other has his back to him which is a visual representation of the events from Luke 23:32-43. The weather behind each man also tells the tale as the penitent thief has a blue sky in his background but the thief that rebuked Jesus hangs before a coming stormy evening. If you look closely to the right of the feet of the penitent thief you can see Judas hanging from a tree.
In this powerful and moody work by Theotocopuli, Christ is depicted completely alone on the cross. The nearest people are riding back into Jerusalem from Golgotha where Jesus was hung. Blood runs down from Christ's feet onto the ground below where the bones symbolizing death are gathered. There is a very rounded look to the line use in this painting as well as darkened color value. The gathering clouds behind Jesus seem to be coming to engulf him even as the heavens open above his head as he looks up.
A more modern version of the crucifixion is told with this work by Domsaitis. The two Marys stand by Christ's feet, one on each side of him. Mary the Holy Mother is on Jesus' left and his cloaked in the black of mourning as the skies above her turn dark. Mary Magdalene is in brighter clothes and the sky above her is decidedly brighter. This could symbolize the dual nature of the cross as death passes into eternal life and sadness turns to joy. The lines used are very thick and purposeful as the larger story is told by the symbolism and colors than the actual detail itself.
This amazing watercolor uses proportion and shape to capture a very realistic three dimensional image. The waning proportions of the characters give this painting a feeling of depth as does the almost "V" shape of those around the cross. While the dress in this photo depicts a time much closer to when the painting was created, it does an excellent job capturing the event. There are also strong elements of contrasting colors which shows another great example of variety.
This penciled work is perhaps the most powerful of the collection as the viewer can almost feel the strong winds sweeping around the cross as the Saints at Christ's feet mourn. The sense of movement created by their billowing clothes and flowing hair places you into the moment and connects you on a deeper level with the characters. There is a rhythm to this movement as it shifts from left to right creating a realistic portrait of the Passion.
Credits: All media
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