Saturday, March 6, 2010

Way to Calvary

Title: Way to Calvary

Artist: Duccio di Buoninsegna

Medium: Tempera on panel

Size: 51 × 53 cm

Date: 1308-11

Location: Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.

Mark 15: 21-22 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).

Cyrene was in what is now Libya in North Africa, and included a large Jewish community. In all likelihood he was a devout pilgrim who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. It is not clear why he was compelled into service by the Roman soldiers. Presumably Jesus had been so weakened by the torture and abuse he faced that he had become too weak to carry the heavy cross any further. After his hours of agonized praying in Gethsemane he had gone from one weary trial to another, and had not had a bite of food or a drop of water since the Last Supper the night before.

Tradition states Simon’s sons Rufus and Alexander became missionaries; the inclusion of their names in Mark suggests that they were of some standing in the early Christian community at Rome. It has even been suggested that the Rufus mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13 is the son of Simon of Cyrene. Some also link Simon himself with the "men of Cyrene" who preached the Gospel to the Greeks in Acts 11:20.

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1260 – c. 1318-1319) was one of the most influential Italian artists of his time, born in Siena, Tuscany. Duccio is trained in the rigid Byzantine style of painting but succeeds in adding more life and emotion to his work than his predecessors. He contributed to the creation of the International Gothic style and his influence reached as far as Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. At his death, Duccio left his wife Taviana and seven children, of which at least two were later to become painters.

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