Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Christ on the Cross

Title: Christ on the Cross
Artist: Francisco de Zurbarán
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 106 x 110.2 cm
Date: 1627
Location: Art Institute, Chicago.

John 19:28-30 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

On one level the idea of thirst also has spiritual significance. Earlier Jesus had said, "My food . . . is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (4:34). And when he was arrested he told Peter to put his sword away, saying, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (18:11). Hunger and thirst become images for Jesus' desire to fulfill the Father's will to the end. Since the cup represents wrath and suffering, Jesus' taking of this drink may suggest the completion of that experience, as the Lamb of God now takes away the sin of the world. The work he has come to do is now complete. The great significance John attaches to the saying would symbolize both Jesus' commitment to obey God's will and the fulfillment of the suffering of the one who is the righteous sufferer.

Francisco de Zurbarán (November 1598 – August 1664) was a Spanish painter known primarily for his religious paintings depicting monks, nuns, and martyrs. Zurbarán gained the nickname Spanish Caravaggio, owing to the forceful, realistic use of chiaroscuro in which he excelled. His subjects were mostly severe and ascetic religious vigils, the spirit chastising the flesh into subjection, the compositions often reduced to a single figure. In 1627, while still resident in Llerena, Zurbarán painted this spectacular picture, that made him famous, for the Dominicans. It was placed in a small oratory chapel and made a strong impression. The represented drama in the composition is increased by the overpowering light, which heightens then transforms the real into superreal, thus expressing the dual nature of Christ.

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