Friday, 22 April 2011

Christ on the Cross by Velasquez

What is it about this painting that so attracts people? It is not an historically accurate portrayal of the Crucifixion; it is not graphically violent like the film, "The Passion of the Christ". Yet it is deeply moving. Why? Apparently Velasquez had just returned from Rome when he was given this commission by a community of nuns. It seems he was more influenced by the original Roman sculptures than by the great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael. What makes this painting so compelling is the beauty of the figure of Christ against the dark background. There is horror here - and perhaps it can lead us into a contemplation of the true horror of the Cross - the unjustified condemnation of innocence; the attempted destruction of all that is good, beautiful and true, and perhaps it will help us to pass through the wounds into the mysterious depths of the inner suffering of Christ where we will encounter nothing less than the unspeakable mystery of God. There is great serenity and majesty in this painting - and triumph. perhaps Velasquez, inspired by the art of antiquity, is telling us that we cannot destroy beauty and if we attempt it, beauty will triumph over us, not by exacting revenge but by revealing the truth about who we are and what we have done. There is forgiveness in this painting, but it is a forgiveness that must be embraced and accepted. Of all the paintings I have ever seen of the crucifixion it is this one, above all, which speaks to me of God's love.


  1. Reading your words on the painting and forgiveness tonight led me to go directly to the iPlayer replays of two BBC Easter programmes- BBC1 TV "What's the Point of Forgiveness?" and the "Good Friday Liturgy" from Jerusalem.
    Both examine violence in history and today in the light of the Cross. Both were vivid pictures, one visual, the other with fascinating sound, music and narrative.

    For me, the Shroud of Turin ,which you discussed some time back, conveys the consequences of suffering love absent from the Velasquez.
    I am glad you find Love in the painting. I cannot find beauty in the Crucifixion. I must look again.
    Thank you for drawing my attention to this.

  2. Thanks Paul. The Shroud is obviously not a painting and THAT is far greater than anything by any past or present artist. The Shroud is incomparable.