The Passion of Christ

Since this blog post is being posted during Holy Week, there are some amazing artworks that I wanted to show you guys on events that happened during this week, particularly events from Good Friday. These works are pictures are all from the MET!

Some of you guys know the intensity of the Passion of Christ. Such as the pain, agony, and sorrow that is experienced in this time. Then the rejoice and grace that is felt on Easter Sunday. This whole week is a lot to take in, and sometimes to understand. These paintings and sculptures can, hopefully, provide an easier way to understand the sacrifice of Christ.

Jan Mostaert, Christ Shown to the People, 1510-1515

Jan Mostaert, Christ Shown to the People, 1510 -1515

Mostaert’s Christ Shown to the People shows the presentation of Christ, by Pontius Pilate, to the people/crowd. This is the first station of the cross. This painting is a little different compared to other Ecce Homo paintings. Mostly because the crowd of people here is significantly smaller than it normally is in other works. Also, here Christ is wearing the crown of thorns, and his hands are tied around his wrists. Pontius Pilate is behind Christ, and in front of him are three other men (possibly meant to represent the crowd Christ is presented to). In the middle of the artwork is Mary, who has collapsed in St. John the Evangelist’s arms, and Mary Magdalene, along with two other girls who are most likely Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome.

This is one of my favorite paintings. The way Christ has a humble appearance is amazing. He is being embarrassed and humiliated in front of people, who don’t even know him, and he keeps a calm appearance even though he’s in pain.

Nicolaos Tzafouris, Icon with Christ Carrying the Cross, 1489-1500

Nicolaos Tzafouris, Icon with Christ Carrying the Cross, 1489-1500

This painting shows Christ on his way to Golgotha/Calvary. This could be more than one representation of a station of the cross. It may be the 2nd station (Christ accepting the cross) or the 3rd station of the cross (after he gets up from his fall). Also, this painting includes a reference to the Roman government with the “SPQR” on the flag pole that the knight figure is holding. This can be saying that Christ was crucified because of the Romans.

Like the painting above, Christ continues to have a humble face and sorrowful expression. He is looking at the viewer, informing us that this must and will be done for the world.

El Greco, Christ Carrying the Cross, 1577-1587

El Greco, Christ Carrying the Cross, 1577-1587

El Greco’s Christ Carrying the Cross is another fantastic art piece. Here is Christ holding/carrying the cross. Christ is looking up with twinkly eyes into the Heavens. He appears to be holding the cross in an accepting, graceful way. Showing that this is a sacrifice he is willing to make. Because of this, I think this is showing the 2nd station of the cross.

Attributed to Jan Provost, The Crucifixion, unknown date but most likely during Renaissance Era

Attributed to Jan Provost, The Crucifixion, unknown date

This painting is a representation of 12th station of the cross, the Crucifixion of Christ. I just want to point out that this is only 13 by 10 inches, but brilliantly done! In the center of the painting is the Crucifixion scene, and in the background, on the right, there is a reference to the Annunciation scene (when Mary is visited by Archangel Gabriel who told her she will have the Son of Man). Having these two references creates a circle (sacred symbol) of Christ’s life: the beginning of his life and the end. In addition, there are scattered skulls and bones around, making a reference to the fall of Adam/fall of man. Showing that Christ’s sacrifice has fixed the original damnation of the world through his death (and soon resurrection). Also, the letters “INRI” are written on Christ’s cross. This means “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Jews” in latin.

I want to point out how much agony and pain is translated through the painting of Christ. One can physically see the pain that Christ is going through; however, even his peers and family know that it must be done.

Follower of Jean Goujon, Descent from the Cross, Marble with traces of gilding, 1555

Follower of Jean Goujon, Descent from the Cross, Marble with traces of gilding, 1555

This sculpture shows the descent of Christ from the Cross. This is a representation of the 13th station, Jesus being taken down from the cross. One can see how perfect and ideal the figures are, close to Greek and Roman art styles. Here Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are trying to lower Christ into the arms of St. John the Evangelist. Mary Magdalene is kneeling at the foot of the cross. Holy Mary (who has fainted), Mary of Clopas, and Mary Salome are in here as well. It is easy to see how difficult it was for Christ’s friends and family to experience this, and how painful it must have been for them to have to carry his body after seeing him die so brutally. Though it is not clear to see, on the top of the cross is probably the letters “INRI.”

Ambrosius Benson, The Lamentation, possible date 1520-1525

Ambrosius Benson, The Lamentation, possible date 1520-1525

Benson’s The Lamentation shows the lamentation of Christ, when he’s friends mourn over him. It can also be seen as another representation of the 13th station of the Cross. Here Mary, St. John, and Mary Magdalene are all respecting and taking care of Jesus’s body. They have taken off his thorn crown that has created a deep imprint in and around his head, and the three large nails that held Jesus up. There is also a jar next to them that probably contains ointment that was applied to the bodies to help with odors and cuts. On the cross, there are the words “INRI” which, as stated earlier, in Latin means: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Jews.

I think Benson does a good job showing the pain that Christ and his body went through for us.

From the Château de Biron, The Entombment, made of limestone, 1515

From the Château de Biron, The Entombment, made of limestone, 1515

Lastly, this large sculpture shows the last station of the Cross, Christ’s entombment and burial. This larger than average human height sculpture was amazing, and a bit imitating (in a good way). It puts the viewer right into the scene. Holy Mary, the center figure, is crying over her departed son. The angels are surrounding them in the blue background. Most likely the individuals surrounding Holy Mary are Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome. Mary Magdalene is on the right and St. John is on the left. Also, the donors of the work are on both ends of Christ.

Most of these works, except maybe El Greco’s (who shows Christ as willing), really show the pain and sorrow that Christ has experienced. They all also do a good job showing the pain that his mother, Holy Mary, went through in seeing her son die brutally, and the pain Christ’s friends went through. It’s truly amazing to see how artists are able to capture such an intense emotions. Finally, these all do a great job showing the sacrifice of Christ for the world.


Feature Image is Pietà by Italian painter Carlo Crivelli, created in 1476.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.