Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mathias Grunewald's Crucifixion

Crucifixion by Mathias Grunewald

Father Benedict Groeschel writes that the one crucifixion painting that moves him the most is the one painted by Mathias Grünewald. I went searching for it and as you can see, he was absolutely right. If we can only comprehend what the crucifixion looked like, this is it. For the next 3 days I will share a brief reflection on this moving painting, focusing on various sections of it. The painting actually forms part of the central panel of the Isenheim altarpiece, painted between 1510 and 1515.
Like a preacher at Good Friday, Grünewald left nothing undone to bring home to us the horrors of this scene of suffering: Christ's dying body is distorted by the torture of the cross; the thorns of the scourges stick in the festering wounds which cover the whole figure. The dark red blood forms a glaring contrast to the sickly green of the flesh. By His features and the impressive gesture of His hands, the Man of Sorrows speaks to us of the meaning of His Calvary. His suffering is reflected in the traditional group of Mary, in the garb of a widow, fainting in the arms of St John the Evangelist, to whose care the Lord has commended her, and in the smaller figure of St Mary Magdalene with her vessel of ointments, wringing her hands in sorrow. On the other side of the Cross, there stands the powerful figure of St John the Baptist with the ancient symbol of the lamb carrying the cross and pouring out its blood into the chalice of the Holy Communion. 
                                                                                                                    (to be continued)

1 comment:

  1. A powerful painting. I studied this in art history, but the only thing they talked about was the "style" of the altarpiece, how "radical" and prophetic of modern art it was, not so much its meaning. Thank you for sharing, Father.. It is a great work of art, nothing left to say after taking it in!