Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Return From Calvary

Jeremiah Scavo
Religion 52

This particular painting has been a bit of an inspiration at times. After spending a period of time in Jerusalem in 1890, a young painter named Herbert Gustave Schmalz produced a series of New Testament art. During his journey he kept a series of sketches portraying scenes from the New Testament that were then later published in an Art Journal as ‘A Painters Pilgrimage.’ This man, Schmalz, was nothing special in his time. Most would never hear of his work, but one particular piece, ‘Return From Calvary,’ is still inspiring today.

Schmalz did not seem to be a very religious man as far as could be seen. And due to his lack of fame it is quite hard to really know much of anything about him. He happens to be quite a boring study really. He was just an artist trying to make a living as far as the Internet portrays him. It took several Google searches just to find a bio. His life may not have been the most exciting thing to study, but some of his work is beautiful. His sketches are rather easy to find and are somewhat popular among art lovers. But, as for most people, he will never have his own Wikipedia page, or be brought up in discussion of famous religious art.

If Schmalz was no one special why would someone choose one of his works to be presented? The answer is quite simple really: his work is one of the most encouraging things to look at for one who wishes to examine and believe the New Testament. In “Return From Calvary” Schmalz portrays one of the last scenes to take place in the Gospel of John. This scene is not written in the Gospel, but is most definitely a possible look into the reality of the situation.

The artistic mechanics are very basic. There are three layers to the picture. The first shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, weeping her way up the steps of Jerusalem along with Mary Magdalene and John the Disciple. The second layer shows to other women looking off into the distance at three crosses on Golgotha where Jesus is hanging. The Third layer shows a dark storm about to take place, but in it is a hint of bright light coming forth. The light coming is a sign of things to come. Mechanically the picture is nothing special or provocative. Its simplicity makes it beautiful.

The focal point of this picture (this writer does not actually know how to determine a focal point) is not the cross or the light coming from the sky. It isn’t Mary or the ladies weeping in the background. No, this entire painting revolves around the expression on John’s face. In order to understand what he is thinking one needs to look into the events leading up to this point.

In just a short period of time before the events of this painting would take place, how many days is unknown, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the sound of praise. The disciples must have thought that moment was the moment of glory. They must have thought that the kingdom was most definitely coming and that this Jesus was to be the king. People shouted as he rode in on the donkey, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13) That scene must of have been brilliant. People laid down branches from palm trees and bowed before the Lord as he entered the city. Yet, somehow, only days later, Jesus is suddenly hanging from a tree outside the city with the very same people rejoicing in his crucifixion. How can this be? That very question is very possibly what keeps flowing the John’s mind at this moment. He saw this God-man, Jesus the Christ, raise people from the dead and do miracles no man had ever done, and now he is hanging from a tree with criminals on his left and right side. What good could come of this?

As John heard from the Lord, “Woman, behold your, son!” and, “Behold, your mother!” John then took the Lords mother as if she was his own and, in this portrayal, walks her home. Many readers of the Bible find themselves in the look on John’s face at one time or another. If one wants to believe what the Bible says they will come to a point where they ask, “How can this be?” That is another thought most likely strolling across John’s mind at this moment. He is looking off in the distance at that cross and wondering what happened to his Lord. Why is he not king? Though many modern people think they may know what John didn’t, the reality is that they are probably just as much familiar with the working of the cross as John was in this moment. What John did not know about Jesus kingdom was that it was one of righteousness. And since no one in existence, except Jesus, has ever been righteous since the fall, something had to be done in order for people to enter that kingdom. Because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory and his angry wrath must fall down on that unrighteousness. And so we have in this scene the eternal wrath of God being poured out on his son in the place of those who would believe on him. God took the cup men deserved and poured it out on His own self. If one attempts to stand before the reality of this they will find themselves in the same kind of trembling fear that John seems to be in. They will not know what to say. Honestly the only response, for those who would believe, will be, “Thank you Lord!” And for most the response will be in disgust. For they do not want God, nor would they ever have anything to do with something loving enough to die for them. They continue in the fall attempting to reject God’s grace in a wish that they might be God. Only to find, in the end, complete destruction on one’s own eternal cross.

Works Cited:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weimer Altarpiece

Aaron Dammann
REL 052

Weimer Altarpiece

This painting started by Lucas Cranach the Elder who died in 1553 and finished by his son Lucas Cranach the Younger in 1555 is one of the best examples of the ideas and beliefs of the Lutheran Reformation. The painting’s focus is to demonstrate the transition and movement from the old covenant to the new covenant through the death of Jesus Christ for all mankind. Another objective of this painting was to distinguish the Reformation’s focus of God’s grace from the Catholic Church’s focus of the sacraments. This painting is one of the best examples of the Reformation’s core driving beliefs that fueled the protestant movement.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was a faithful supporter and believer in the teachings of the Lutheran Reformation in the 16th century. He wanted to paint a work of art the stood above the alter, to remind those taking communion that the focus is not on the sacrament but on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The painting to this day stands over the alter, at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimer, Germany. The painting shows the dichotomous relationship between the Law and Gospel in the Bible. The point of representing both the Law and Gospel was to show the focus used to be on the old covenant of the Law but after Jesus sacrifice is now on the Gospel and the new covenant. This focus on the new covenant and the Gospel was the heart and driving force of the Reformation.

Two prevalent stories from the Old Testament, the snake on the cross and Moses with the Ten Commandments, are shown in this painting. Moses and the prophets of old testified that those who were not able to uphold the laws of God and the Ten Commandments would be condemned to hell. This condemnation is shown with the figure of a man being driven into the fires of hell by death, the skeleton, and the devil, the monster with a club. The covenant of old in Moses days was one of works to try and uphold the law. The other scene from the snake on the cross was from an Old Testament story were snakes were sent by God into the camp of the Israelites. The snakes killed many people and in order for those bitten to be saved from death they had to look upon the snake on the cross which Moses had set up in the camp. The snake on the cross foreshadowed the coming of Jesus and his death on the cross. Just as the bitten Israelites were saved by looking up at the snake on the cross all people are saved by Jesus death on the cross for the sins of the world.

Towards the forefront of the painting is Jesus on the cross along with Jesus conquering death and the devil on the right of the painting with John the Baptist, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Martin Luther on the left. Right underneath the cross is a pure white lamb holding the banner of Jesus with the words “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29. The simple message of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for all whom by his blood we are all saved is the focus of this painting. This theme is also conveyed by the pouring out of Jesus blood from his side onto the head of Lucas Cranach. On the far left is Martin Luther who is positioned like Moses but instead of the Ten Commandment he is holding open the Bible with three verses written on it. These three verses are as follows: “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin” 1 John 1:7, “Therefore let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy within and find grace in the time when help is needed” Hebrews 4:16, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of man be lifted up, so that all who believe in him may have eternal life” John 3:14. These passages from the New Testament testify to the fact of the new covenants replacement of the old through Jesus death on the Cross.

I believe this painting is a significantly clear statement of the Reformation’s focus on the grace of Jesus death on the cross. It is by his death alone that the sins of all mankind were forgiven and for that unconditional loving act we should be joyous. Jesus is focusing on the viewers of this painting inviting them to believe in him and what he has done for us sinners. Cranach’s feet point towards Jesus signifying his importance yet looking at us again as an invitation to Jesus. The focus is simply that Jesus death fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament. He fulfilled all the requirements of the old covenant and created the new covenant in him, through which all are saved by his grace.

Works Cited
• Noble, Bonnie. "Chapter 4 - Holy Visions and Pious Testimony: Weimar Altarpiece." Lucas Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation. Lanham, Md.: University of America, 2009. 139-49. Print.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Weimar Alterpiece by Lucas Cranach the Younger

Caleb Bailey

REL 52


New Testament in Art: Weimer Altarpiece

The Weimer Altarpiece is a painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger, son of the famous Lucas Cranach the Elder, whose works revolve around religion and mythological paintings. Both the Elder and the Younger are noted for their emphasis on the Lutheran Reformation and protestant focused religious portraits and scenes. However the current piece is one of the Elder’s much more traditional paintings and was actually finished by the Younger in 1555. Both the Younger and the Elder had a strong bias against what they perceived to be dogmatic catholic traditions and thus this particular piece was intended to shift the focus of the altar away from the sacrament and towards the sacrifice. The piece emphasizes the gift of Jesus as the center of the people’s worship. The painting currently resides in the St. Peter and Paul Chruch in Weimar Germany and (as indicated by its title) is placed directly above the altar so all who receive communion would appreciate the gravity of the sacrifice.

The painting itself is broken into a number of contrasting scenes which drive the focus from Old Testament to New Testament themes. This dichotomy is used to emphasize the progressive nature of the Reformation and aligns the Lutheran ideals with the New Covenant.

First and foremost, the center piece is a large picture of Jesus death on the cross. It dominates the frame and puts his sacrifice above all other elements of the piece. His side is pierced and blood is flowing onto the head of one of three men standing to the right of him. The blood represents his sacrifice and the movement onto the head of one of the onlookers indicates how believers are washed with the blood of Jesus.

Something interesting to note is the contrasting scene in the background. Above the heads of the three men, there is a group of tents with a snake on a cross-like beam. It’s a scene from Numbers 21:6-10 where people afflicted with a snake bite would look at the image and be healed. In a similar fashion, believers stand before the Christ and are “healed” by his sacrifice. In both instances, some disease was beaten by an emblem on a cross. The artists are portraying Jesus as an evolution of the “snake on a cross” concept.

Above and to the left of the snake scene, is a group of shepherds being addressed by an angel who is holding the words (very difficult to read but put in by the artist) “Glory to God in the Highest” as a reference to Jesus birth in Luke 2:14. In the forefront and to the far left is the open tomb of Jesus, indicating the fulfilled sacrifice. The tree growing on top of the tomb suggests that stone cold “death” of Jesus leads to new life as the tree grows towards the heavens.

Then, to the left of the cross, is a small picture of a man being chased by a skeleton and a beast wielding a club. The beast is intended to be Satan and the skeleton represents Death. Man is shown running away from Satan only to be confronted with Death and forced into the fires of Hell to the left. It exemplifies the hopelessness of mankind. But then in the left forefront, the figure of Jesus is wrapped in a cloth and is standing over both Death and Satan. He has emerged from the tomb behind him and has triumphed over mankind’s greatest adversaries. Again, this focuses on how Jesus sacrifice changed the people’s connection with sin and death.

Finally, the three men up front are contrasted to the group of men behind them. From left to right is John the Baptist, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Martin Luther. In back is Moses with the Ten Commandments and a group of Israelites. While Moses gave the people the Law, the men up front are demonstrating the change with the gift of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is explaining to Cranach the Elder what the blood on his head means while Cranach the Elder is supposed to represents all believers. Martin Luther is then supporting the words of John the Baptist through two verses, John 1:7 and Hebrews 4:16, which declare the purifying blood of Jesus as the mercy and grace to help the people “approach the seat of grace”.

John the Baptist is also making a connection between Jesus and the Lamb through his hand gestures. The Lamb is holding a banner which reads in Latin “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world” (John 1:29). John’s relation of the two suggest Jesus is that Lamb. This once again furthers the connection between Jesus and the gift of his sacrifice.

Also, it’s important to note that both Jesus and Lucas Cranach the Elder are looking at the audience. The eyes of Jesus are intended to invite the audience to believe in his sacrifice, since he defeated Death and Satan for the people. Cranach the Elder’s eyes serve as his confession, saying this is what he believes.

The whole piece then is essentially an argument for the power and gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice. It contrasts doctrine from both the Old and New Testament through related scenes and uses two prominent front figures to directly connect with the audience and emphasize the gift of Jesus death.

Works Cited:

Noble, Bonnie. "Chapter 4 - Holy Visions and Pious Testimony:Weimar Altarpiece." Lucas

Cranach the Elder: Art and Devotion of the German Reformation. Lanham, Md.: University of America, 2009. 139-49. Print.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Shadow of Death

Many artworks exist that contain an image somehow related to the New Testament, even if they are not showing a particular story. The Shadow of Death is one such painting that does not correlate to a story in the New Testament. We can obviously see that the male figure is Jesus Christ, and can see that the woman figure is Mary, his mother. The image is also showing a carpenter shop, which we know from the stories in the New Testament that Joseph, Jesus’ father, was a carpenter. However, we never hear of this scene taking place in the stories, but one thing William Holman Hunt wanted to accomplish with this painting is the humanity of Christ.

William Holman Hunt was born in 1827 in London, and entered the Royal Academy art schools. His earlier works were not very successful, but when he started painting religious images, Hunt became famous. In the mid 1850’s, he traveled to the Holy Land for more detail that he could incorporate into his paintings, which was where he painted The Shadow of Death which took from 1869-1873 to complete. The image was produced by oil paint on a canvas, and is approximately seven feet by five and a half feet. One reason Hunt decided to paint this particular image is because he believed there was a severe lack in pictures representing Christ being fully man. Hunt wanted to show Jesus, as he endured the burden of common labor, “still gaining His bread by the sweat of His face”.

When looking at this image, my gaze immediately went to the shadow in the left of the background. Clearly, the shadow of Jesus’ hands is placed to resemble his crucifixion. I also took notice of the fact that Jesus’ chest is bare in this painting. I have mainly only seen him in this way in artworks that actually portray the crucifixion. However, here we can see from viewing his body, that he is lean, muscular, and tan, not only implying his hard labor, but foreshadowing his death. His facial expression also interested me. In this picture, Jesus is looking up, gazing into heaven perhaps, which to me seems like another foreshadowing of his death. Hunt, however, wanted to show him in this manner to show his relief. The image is meant to be when the sun is starting to go down, so Jesus is finally able to retire from his day’s labor, and so he gets up to stretch and relax.

I also noticed Mary, his mother, was gazing at his shadow as well. Here, we are able to share in her feeling of dread when she receives this image of the things that are to come. Even though I cannot see her face, I can feel her surprise and sadness because of the way she is portrayed. One thing that I didn’t notice was the chest she has opened in front of her. Inside of it are the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus when they came to visit him in Bethlehem. The star shaped window over the right shoulder of Jesus represents the star that led the Magi. In this sense, the story of Jesus’ life is coming full circle, because we remember his infancy, see him as an adult, and get a glimpse of his death.

There are also many other intricate details in this painting that foreshadow the death of Jesus. The first is the red fillet, which is something to wear around one’s head to keep their hair in place, which is at the foot of the sawhorse. This represents the crown of thorns that would be used to mock Jesus during his Passion. The fact that it is red, also symbolizes the red robe the soldiers put on Jesus to mock him, and the blood that he would shed. Another thing is the reeds that are standing in the left corner of the carpentry shop. These represent the reed that the soldiers would shove into Jesus’ hand, like a scepter, to mock him and then they would beat Jesus. This is found in Matthew 27:28-30.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

Some other interesting things to note are the shadow that the saw casts on the wall. It is meant to resemble a spear, to represent the spear that would be thrust into his side. Another symbol is the plumb bob, a weight used for measuring if something is perpendicular, which is hanging from the rack of tools on the back wall. The shape and location is meant to resemble the heart of Jesus. The window behind Christ’s head is meant to resemble a halo, pointing to his holy nature. The hills outside the window are supposed to represent the hills of Galilee, which points to Jesus’ ministry.

William Holman Hunt took great effort into putting many little details into this image. Overall, I would say this painting reflects on Jesus’ life and death. This image is meant to show the spectator the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us, not only in his death, but in his life. If Jesus is true God and true man, then he took on a great burden when he became human. He had to endure the same trials that all of us face, and I think this work does a great job of showing us just how much Jesus had to love us, if he was willing to endure our sufferings.

Jessica Burns

Stephen S. Sawyer is a nationally recognized Christian portrait artist. Stephen Sawyer was born in August of 1952 in Paris Kentucky. Sawyer is an American artist widely known for his unique and sometimes homoerotic visual interpretations of Jesus Christ, as well as for his business, "Art For God". His work has been featured in many magazines, over 400 newspapers such as the full front page of The New York Times, and news shows such as The Today Show. Since 1995, Sawyer has traveled to several locations in America and occasionally other countries sharing his testimonyStephen Sawyer started a business named "Art for God" in Versailles, Kentucky, where he resides. The first year of business Art for God only brought in three thousand dollars of business. Mister Sawyer has five children and a wife. To support them he did a lot of miscellaneous jobs, one Christmas he even drove a UPS truck. His wife, Cindy, never asked him to get a "real job" her belief in his artistic value is overwhelming to some. Cindy married Stephen the day after she turned eighteen and now thirty years later, she is still his biggest fan!

He chose Jesus of Nazareth as his primary subject for his artistic expressions. His spiritual art honors and also reflects the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ in a unique and over powering way, no matter if the setting is out of the New Testament setting or a more modern one. . It doesn't matter how Sawyer paints Jesus it is the same merciful love for all humanity of God that shows through.

I was taken in awe by Sawyer's painting "Silent Night Crucifixion", pictured above. The look on Jesus' face is what struck me at first. He looks angry and like He is in a dark world. His eyes are almost blackened out as if there is no soul in them. The firm look on Jesus' face is almost frightening. The artist says that this look is because of the sins Jesus was taking on as He died.
The artist’s explanation of the painting; My use of dark colors gives this painting a particularly dark, ominous and even morbid feeling, reminding us of the significance of the crucifixion. The lighter blue colors and stars in the background can be seen as a glimmer of hope, foreshadowing the glorious resurrection that was to come. At that time, the Son may have cried out, as is explained in Matthew27:45-46. One thing is for sure. We have no capacity to appreciate the utterly horrific experience of having the sins of the world put upon the Lord Jesus as He hung, in excruciating pain, from that cross. The physical pain must of been immense. The spiritual pain, must have been even greater.
Sawyer wanted to go beyond the pain and the sufferings from the beating Jesus accepted before His crucifixion. Sawyer wanted us to see the pain Jesus suffered when all the sins of the world was thrust upon His soul. We can tell this because there is no blood coming from the crown of thorns on Jesus' head and we do not observe any of the painful cuts and bruises we see in other paintings of Jesus on the cross, painted by other artists..
When I first looked at this painting, I thought it was during the darkening time during the crucifixion, mentioned in Matthew 27: 45-46. Then as I studied this piece of art, I came to the conclusion, it was not about that time. If you look closely there are stars out in the background. If it had been the darkening time we would not of been able to see them. The darkness would of over taken even Jesus' being.
When Jesus cried out to His Father or our God, asking Him why He had forsaken Him. I think that Jesus may have been quoting from Psalms 22:1, where the psalmist wrote, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me...
We hear of the sins of the world being piled on Jesus in II Corinthians 5:21 and in I Peter 2, both verses say, I am combining and evaluating these verses, that He (Jesus) bare our sins, so that we (sinners) might be made righteous in God through Jesus!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peace is Coming

Peace is Coming

The artwork “Peace is Coming” is a very extensive and symbolism-filled painting about the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was painted between 2006 and 2007 and represents everyone who has ever fought in a war’s submission to the peace found in God. It is a fine art piece, with the original kept by the artist, and many reproductions on canvas and print available for purchase. The artist, Jon McNaughton, is a devout follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and has done many painting on temples and early Mormon Church historical events. He considered it quite an emotional experience to paint this picture, and he stated that at several points he chose to put himself in the position of a certain warrior or soldier in order to feel what they may have been thinking. I can only imagine some to the anguish and hardships faced by many of the warriors in this picture, and I think this approach would have greatly added to its accuracy. Several other pieces revolve around the End times, and the Mormon
belief of Jesus coming to the Americas. It also features the American soldier, as modeled after Cody Henscheid, another Mormon from Utah and member of the 101st Airborne who received a bronze cross medal for his bravery in battle.
The painting has an extremely large amount of work put into it. It has both literal future events portrayed, and a large amount of symbolism with the many various portrayals of soldiers and with Jesus’ figure. One of the key features is the amount of work put into the clothing of Jesus. The central portion of the robe includes a picture of the Tree of Life, it has seven branches, representing the seven dispensations of time, twelve pieces of fruit, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, and seven roots, representing the seven creation periods. The larger central branch represents the millennium of peace promised in the Bible, while the largest root represents the seventh day, on which God rested. There is also, an Alpha and Omega symbol on either side of Jesus’ robe, along with a winding Olive branch design, representing the peace that is in the future. Isaiah 2:4, one of the texts that inspired the painting, can be found written in ancient Hebrew around God’s belt. Jesus facial expression proved challenging to the artist who said he “wanted His face to be peaceful, yet you knew He was coming to do business”. Jesus was also quite Aryan, something we rarely think about unless challenged in our thinking of the fact. Many cultures chose to portray Jesus as one of their own or with similar racial features, despite His part Nazarene birth. Another verse, which was the more important to the theme and less the inspiration, is Romans 14:11, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess praise God”. None of the soldiers are higher than Jesus.
A further amount of rich symbolism can be found in the surrounding painting. Mortal enemies in real life are portrayed as docile to one another in the painting. A Japanese samurai can be found weighing down the WW2 pilot of the Enola Gay, whose guilt was said to be tremendous at the sheer loss of human life. The female Israeli soldier, according to the website, was painted in to represent all the women in the armed forces across the globe. Satan also makes an appearance, skulking next to the black knight, and moving away from God’s glory. McNaughton said he painted in Satan to represent the fact that whenever there was a war, Satan was not far off, both in nature and in responsibility. The World Trade Center’s wreckage can be seen in the background, which is a representation of the sacrifice of many innocents for the sake of certain ideologies. To the right of the background, three cross-like cavalry flags can be seen, which mark the sacrifice made by Jesus at the crucifixion.
This work is very significant to those who may have experienced the atrocities of war, or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. To me, it serves as a reminder of all the hardships Humanity has had to come through and that we will all face the same fate someday, even the world’s most fierce warriors. This painting can be considered a very extensive work of art about the glory we are to experience at the End Times.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The resurrection of Jesus has been used in artwork many times over, but only once has Jesus’ face in the resurrection scene been replaced by the face of young man on death row. Such is the case in the resurrection painting by Kermit Oliver.

Kermit Oliver was born on August 14, 1943 in Refugio, Texas. He is the son and grandson of African-American cowboys. Oliver studied art at Texas Southern University from 1960 to 1967 and he was the first African-American to be represented by a major gallery. He is also the only American artist who designed scarves for the famed French House of Hermes. Some of Oliver’s solo exhibitions include: 2005 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (lifetime retrospective) and
1997 Kermit Oliver: Painting, "Texas Realists: Contemporary Artists Exhibit.

The controversial resurrection painting is found at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas. The painting is 9 feet tall and hangs over the altar of the church. At first glance, the painting may cause some eyebrows to rise because of the nudity, but Oliver says that whenever Jesus is depicted at the cross, he is usually wearing very little clothing and he was not trying to shock people with nudity.

The controversy over the painting, however, is not so much the nudity, but the model that Oliver chose for the painting. The model was Oliver’s oldest son, Khristian, who was on death row for the murder of 64-year old Joe Collins of Nacogdoches.

Khristian was 20 years old when he and three other teenagers burglarized the home of Joe Collins. Collins surprised Khristian and Khristian shot Collins in the face with a handgun. Collins was also beaten on the head with the butt of the gun. Khristian was executed on November 5, 2009. He was 32 years old. The family of Joe Collins was present as well as Khristian’s family, including Kermit Oliver.

Oliver says that the theme of the painting was his son rising from his death. “It represented my idea of his being in the role of being redeemed and resurrected, and that's the point I was trying to deal with," Oliver said. He also said that he never condoned or excused his son’s actions, but he speaks from a parent’s unconditional love.

Oliver believes that since Jesus Christ was a condemned criminal when he died, the painting of his son’s face in the resurrection scene was just as appropriate as anything. There are white lilies over Jesus’ head and traditionally, white lilies are placed on the tomb of those convicted for a crime they didn’t commit. White lilies are also used around Easter time.

Regarding the details of the painting, Oliver explained that the twining shape of the white cloth is reminiscent of human DNA, the humanity of Christ, as well as the curtain tearing in the temple at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. The painting is laced with symbols within the freeze at the base of the painting where Christ’s foot is stepping on a serpent, a dove perches near the cock and grapevines climb across the stone carving. And in the stone carving, we can make out the twelve disciples.

Initially, the congregation of his church did not approve of the painting. They thought it was too controversial. However, after the execution of Khristian took place, the church held a vigil for the young man and they provided support to Oliver’s family during their time of grief. Now, the church says that Oliver’s painting is not going anywhere.

Oliver’s painting is controversial when first learning about it. But after hearing Oliver’s reasons behind using his son as a model, it actually does make sense and it makes for a thought provoking piece of art.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rock & Roll Last Supper

Rock & Roll Last Supper

Paul Karslake, 52 year old British artist, has created many pieces of art in many different mediums. His first and arguably most famous piece is a painting of Keith Richards, commissioned by Richards’s wife in 1998. It is said that this painting was the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean after Johnny Depp saw the painting in the Richards household. Karslake has also done a number of religious works and he describes himself as a “modern surrealist.” One of these religious paintings is called “Rock & Roll Last Supper” and is one of Karslake’s more controversial pieces.

Paul has received many awards for his paintings and has also been a part of many exhibitions, including many solo exhibitions. His works can be found almost anywhere, including guitars, clubs, Gordon Ramsay restaurants, planes, and houses, as well as many public museums. He is an active fundraiser for numerous charities and he prides himself on being able to imitate the styles of his favorite artists including Arcim Boldo and Salvatore Dali. His paintings often feature issues such as animal rights and environmental issues, but he also attempts to capture timeless icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Keith Richards, the Kray Twins, and his brother-in-law, Ronnie Wood, who is included in “Rock & Roll Last Supper.”

The painting features a number of rock & roll icons and is set in what appears to be an old, dark mansion. The icons are placed around a central table, much like Da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper.” Some of the more notable figures include Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger as Christ, and Elvis Presley as Judas Iscariot. Other than the rock legends, other things that are noticeable are a skull on the table, multiple bottles of alcohol, cigarettes, two guitars, and a deck of playing cards. These do not seem to have much significance other than to add to the overall mood and setting of the picture.

According to the author himself, the painting was created to be “a vehicle
for me to paint all my favorite music characters in one room!” The painting has created a bit of controversy among more conservative churches who feel that suggesting Mick Jagger is synonymous with Jesus Christ is blasphemy, punishable by an eternity in hell. Other churches have simply decided to ignore the piece, saying that, due to reasons including the number of people around the table, it simply was not meant to be a religious piece and, according to the artist, they are right. Despite the obvious similarities to the original “Last Supper” painting and other interpretations, it was never meant to be a religious piece. Karslake jokes, “The reason there are 14 people is because I can’t count! No, really, it was because I wanted 14 so that people would ask that very question! It really is not a religious piece so the rules do not apply.”

Although the image immediately evokes strong responses from churches and other religious followers, Paul Karslake’s painting “Rock & Roll Last Supper” is not intended to be a representation of the Biblical event at all. However, it does immediately force discussion and debate from all sides, debates ranging from whom each of the characters are to what the religious and theological meanings behind the painting are. One thing is for sure, whether it was intended to be controversial or not, Paul Karslake’s painting causes tidal waves of controversy throughout conservative churches and rock and roll lovers alike.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Has animation gone too far?

On many occasions, society depicts Jesus in cartoon and other TV shows that air daily. It is not hard to flip on the TV and find some sort of representation of Jesus or other aspects of Christianity. Often times, the representations are thoughtful and full of insight. Other times, they are downright rude and discourteous. However, it seems as if society is more ok with these graphic outbursts of what some would call blasphemy. It is getting more and more difficult to portray Jesus in a new, innovative way that can describe his holiness or resemblance of God. On the other hand, it seems like cartoons are defiling his name monthly, if not more often than that. One such show that has numerous references to Jesus and Christianity is “Family Guy”.
“Family guy” producers have had Jesus or God appear in over 10 episodes, and they seem to be increasing in frequency. As these are recent portrayals of Jesus, occurring in the last decade, they seem to have modern twists on the way that Jesus is depicted. One time, Jesus is a record store employee, who says that he is just checking in on the world, and does so every few hundred years. (link) This is very contrary to what many Christians believe. The idea of Jesus coming back to the earth is when the Kingdom of God shall reign and life will change drastically. However, according to “Family Guy”, Jesus just wants to hang out and reconnect with earth. This makes it seem as if the Kingdom of God is not what the religion has made it out to be. Why would anyone want to leave what is supposed to be better than anything ever imaginable, to come back to earth? I don’t think the writers of the show have thought this deep into the scenario, but I am sure that I am not the first one who has. For the record, I could not find any comments from the creators of “Family Guy” on their portrayals of Jesus so anything that I say about them is speculative.
In other episodes, the writers have had Peter (the main character) and his family test Jesus and have him perform acts to prove his holiness. (link) This could be a modern way of showing what people did to Jesus in Galilee. It was often that Jesus was tempted and people asked favors of him. However, is this offensive in the manner that “Family Guy” presents the requests? Traditionally, people asked of Jesus miracle that would bring them back into society, or to have society accept them as a person again. Often, this included casting out of demons, healing of disease, or cleansing of sins. In cartoon portrayals, Jesus generally will perform miracles to “better” them by social standards today. This is not so much as changing what Jesus does, but rather tuning Jesus to our present culture. Some loose similarities could be on the minds of “Family Guy” writers.
There are many instances in episodes where Jesus is put into a more comical, less theological scenario. Jesus is seen on the golf course, in the back of limos, and turning into comic book characters. Are the writers just trying to be comical in these instances? I believe that they are writing more than just comedy. It seems as if “Family Guy” writers could be trying to say is that religion it too serious in present society. People claim that if Jesus is taken out of context, then you will burn in hell. Preachers preach that the only way to reach heaven is to be Christ-like. In all honesty, how do these people know that Jesus was not a fun-loving, down to earth kind of guy (no pun intended). The view of Jesus brought out by the writers is one of a different type of Christ, one that many teenagers and college age kids might see at more their level. Perhaps this is a way that religion should start to portray Jesus to spark interest in young adults.
Now you may be asking yourself, just because Jesus may appeal to people in these scenarios, does that make it right? Are the writers of “Family Guy” doing the world any good by portraying Jesus in the manner that they have? It is often thought by critics that family guy goes too far. They create an image that tarnishes the view of Jesus and Christianity as a whole. They believe that the offensiveness needs to stop. Ultimately, the question should be asked; is humor an appropriate way of understanding Jesus? Or is this more offensive than it is beneficial?

For a montage of Jesus and God in Family Guy, click here

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jesus is my Homeboy- Simplicity to create complexities

Emily Brady
New Testament in Art
Presentation Due Monday April 12, 2010

Jesus is my Homeboy – David Lachapelle

David Lachapelle has been a controversial artist in the past decade, producing and releasing images depicting sexuality, society, fame, materialism, and religion. With his beginnings in editorial fashion, Lachapelle developed into much more than just a photographer. He worked with many artistic outlets including video production, music video work, and theatre. Throughout his career, Lachapelle wished to covey an editorial reality, a contemporary twist on our lives.
Some would consider his work profanity, some even pornography, but others reference him as the most famous and progressive artist and photographer of this generation. Many of his photographs force those viewing it to look within themselves to possibly find insecurities, flaws, and repression.
I will examine a photograph produced by Lachapelle from his collection “Jesus is my Homeboy”. This piece was completed and displayed in a London art gallery in 2008 along with five other works that depict Jesus in modern or urban settings. He wished to portray Jesus in today’s society and depict where and who he would be associating with. Lachapelle was brought up in a Catholic home, being exposed to images of Jesus throughout his life. In interviews, Lachapelle says he wanted the ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ collection to convey an anti-fundamentalist view, as well as his personal take on Jesus as a historical figure relocated into modern society.
He wanted to ‘rescue the teachings of Christ in a small way, through art.” He wanted to show his personal ability to ‘see through the fundamentalist rhetoric and judgment” and show what Jesus’ followers would look like today. He explicitly indicates that he did not wish to shock or create irony with these works, but to update or interpret Jesus in a new way. When Lachapelle saw a t-shirt with the writing ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ he loved the simplicity of the statement and throughout his production of his collection, kept that simplicity in his mind and in his work.
Four major aspects of this work that stood out to me were dress, ey placement, location, and light. Lachapelle is known for his usage of color and light throughout all of his works, and this piece is no different. There seem to be two sources of light in this photograph, one extremely bright source behind Jesus’ head, the other from the door way on the left of the picture.
Overall this photo is dim lit, thus extenuating the light’s presence. The light from behind Jesus’ head is obviously the light he brought into the world, and the light he is brings to those he encounters. The light from the door way could be interpreted in many ways. That light source is far dimmer than the one of Jesus, and I looked at it as the small emission of light from the kind people in the world. As the picture is dark, so is the world.

The second major aspect I will address in this picture is location. As we have seen throughout historical paintings, Jesus is usually shown in majestic mountain scenes, a luscious garden, or a beautiful countryside. This modern take on Jesus puts him inside a dirty home, presumably small and in a lower income area. I interpreted this as Lachapelle’s way of showing how Jesus would not be socializing and staying in the Marriott downtown, but in a run-down house, socializing with the ‘outcasts’. I see this as a very important aspect of this piece and of this collection.
Another key aspect to this painting is eye placement. Jesus’ eyes are raised upward, while the woman’s eyes are closed. I thought this was interesting because I interpreted it as showing how Jesus would not look down on her as society does. The woman, presumably a prostitute, would be looked down on and ridiculed for her lifestyle. Jesus’ eyes are showing compassion, respect, and humility, while many people’s eyes would be drawn to woman in little clothing in judgment.

The last key aspect I will discuss is that of dress. An extremely interesting part of this collection is that Lachapelle chose to show Jesus is clothing that he presumably wore, a Middle Eastern robe, while he updated the rest of the character’s wardrobes. At first I wondered if this was allow Jesus to stand out in the picture, but from further research and interpretation I believe it to be the artists way of showing how no matter what time in history Jesus would be placed in, he would still be teaching and conveying the same thing. As he discussed in his interview, he wished to reclaim Jesus’ pure teachings, and not allow materialism, and judgment by religious groups to contaminate the original teachings.

This picture does present a new concept that allows the viewer to look inward, especially those that claim to be religious, and ask themselves if they are doing what Jesus would do. By placing a traditional Jesus into a modern day setting, it provokes questions surrounding different church’s policies, personal practice, and faith. I would argue that most faiths would accept that Jesus, if placed in modern day, would socialize with the outcasts, but seeing this picture, would question themselves and their work.

This picture depicts John 12:3 where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. I interpret this verse as meaning we should all take the place of servants for others. As another verse says, we should do this for the least of our brothers, and in this picture, Lachapelle uses a figure that is seen through society’s lens as an outcast to portray someone doing as they should. Then in turn, if we should do this for the least of our brothers, it includes those seen as outcasts.

This picture challenges us to see Jesus for who he was, and look inward at our faith and ourselves. Would we be someone Jesus would socialize with? Would we look down on those in society that are considered outcasts? This picture uses light, location, modernity, and juxtaposition to portray Lachapelle’s sincere simplicity of Jesus’ teachings.

My first response to this picture was mixed emotions to be honest. I was brought up in the Catholic faith, and we always hear teachings about how Jesus hung out with the outcasts, and associated with tax collectors and prostitutes. Through no picture or image was ever associated with these teachings. It was not offensive to see Jesus having his feet washed and anointed by a prostitute, but having her bent down in a submissive fashion does create some controversy.
Then after researching how and why Lachapelle chose to produce this collection it makes sense! He wanted to show the world what type of people Jesus would be associating with, and it allows for many interpretations of the Bible with a literal modern lens. I am interested to see how the class will respond!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Transfiguration of Christ

Rachael Hackbarth
New Testament Art Project
The Transfiguration
The New Testament artwork and masterpieces that are still around today are immense. Artists specialized in painting specifically religious works have increased rapidly over the past centuries. It was difficult to find a piece that really stuck out to me from the rest. Eventually, I came across the artist Giovanni Bellini who is well known for his piece called the Transfiguration of Christ. This painting portrays the story in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36 (it is not mentioned in the gospel of John).
Giovanni Bellini was born in Venice, Italy and lived from 1430 to 1516. His father was a painter which drove Bellini to learn as much about art as he could. While he was beginning to develop his own knack for painting, Bellini was astounded by the artwork of his brother-in-law Matengna. Bellini began to stray away from the common way of art in Italy, which was more gothic at the time, and moved towards Matengna’s colorful and depth-portraying style. As Bellini came into his own, he brought new attributes of painting to the table: realism, color, and form with a religious feeling behind his work. Through Bellini’s success, the Venetian School of Painting was founded, bringing a renaissance art to Venice. As he continued to do his work, the beauty in his landscape paintings through oil paintings is what made him famous.
From 1455 to 1460, Bellini painted the Transfiguration of Christ who he attributed to Mantegna, his brother-in-law. His painting was to display the account of when Jesus took his disciples Peter, James, and John high on the mountain. Elijah and Moses were present with Jesus as the Father spoke to the disciples from the heavens. In my opinion I believe that Bellini did a good job in portraying the transfiguration. All the people mentioned in the text are present in his artwork with Jesus being clearly recognizable. Some controversy that could be brought up is the nationality of Jesus as well as the others. This dark-skinned portrayal of Jesus is not the typical Jesus America is use to seeing but may be closer to the nationality that Jesus actually was.
The aspects of this painting that first grabbed my attention were the contrast in the color of the sky in the background. The sky gets darker as it goes up, which is bewildering to me, but at the same time this contrast in color was the admired quality of Bellini’s artwork. I also noticed that it didn’t really catch my attention that they were high on a mountain, but instead they were on more of a hill. Another attribute I found was important in the account of transfiguration that the painting was lacking was the bright cloud that settled over the group when Jesus’ face shown like the sun. I think adding this detail would have enhanced the painting.
Not a lot of information was given on Bellini’s rendition of the transfiguration which makes it hard to debate because we do not know the artist’ meaning behind the artwork. Points of controversy could come from the expression on Jesus’ face which I found to be very interesting. It gave me the feel that Jesus had the attitude that no one should be looking at his divinity at the moment. One thing that Bellini did say about the meaning behind all of the cowering faces of the disciples, Elijah, and Moses was to represent that lowly standing of the human race could not stand in the presence of a sovereign Lord. The landscape in the back left was to represent the realism of the account. Although the disciples were standing in front of a holy and perfect Savior, by no means was this a figment of their imagination. The landscape was to enforce the fact that what was happening on the mountain was majestical, while still being very real.
Giovanni Bellini had many pieces of artwork over his 86 years of life in which he painted until the very last day. He without a doubt left a legacy. Bellini was known as the best painter in the Venice Renaissance and establishing his well-known school. Also, he was the one to bring new techniques to the use of color and landscape to Italy. Today, his well-known painting stands in the Museo Correr, a museum in Venice, where people can still admire his work.
"Giovanni Bellini, Venetian Painter, Renaissance Art Venice, Biography: Famous Oil Paintings, Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan." Irish Art | Encyclopedia of Visual Arts in Ireland | History of Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking: Artists, Museums, Galleries, Exhibitions. Web. 06 Apr. 2010. .
Web Gallery of Art, Image Collection, Virtual Museum, Searchable Database of European Fine Arts (1000-1850). Web. 06 Apr. 2010. .

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Table of Hope

by Kelcey Nichols

Art from the New Testament can be seen everywhere we look. Most of the art we see is traditional and shows only people mentioned in the bible, but some of the art requires deeper interpretation. In Joey Valesco’s “Hapag ng Pag-asa,” better known as Table of Hope the painting of the last supper is taken to a deeper level. The portrait portrays several hungry children of the streets eating with Jesus. “Hapag ng Pag-asa” appeared at the National Eucharistic convention in 2005. The author, Joey Valesco, was born March 18, 1967 to Ciriaco and Adelita Valesco. He took up painting pictures of Jesus in real life issues after undergoing a severe rough patch in his life. This painting is one of his most known images because of the relation to real life it serves.

One of the first things I noticed about the painting was Jesus. It is not uncommon for paintings involving Jesus to draw our eye directly to him first. It seems as though he brings light among the darkness. The next thing I notice is the boy sitting on the table with a purse in his hand on the left side of the table. It is said by some that the boy had stole the purse and takes the place of Judas with the money he was paid when he betrayed Jesus. The thing that strikes me the most in this is the little boy on the floor eating scraps that have fallen. These were portraits of real people that Valesco had encountered in his life. He found these children in Manila, photographed them, and then painted them into his painting.

What does this painting represent? To me this painting represents the type of people Jesus would have helped and spoken to in the bible. In the bible, Jesus talks the poor and Impoverished and teaches them and gives them food. If Jesus were here today, these are the type of kids he would be working with. Another message the painting sends is Jesus would want us to give to these children in need. In the painting everything is dark and the gloomy and the children do not look happy. There was a follow up to this painting called “Hapag ng Pagibig” meaning, the table of love. In that painting it shows the children with Jesus again but in their own setting and happy. Hapag ng Pag-asa also brings another message to us. The artist hung this painting up above his dining room table to remind his children to be thankful for what they have. For his children once had to go without much and this painting helped them to imagine what it would be like if they were in these children’s position. I think this painting reinforces the idea of giving to the poor. This picture helps to remind us that there are children out there in need and they need our help to live a better life. The fact that these are real children who are homeless allows the painting to strike home even more so.

This piece of art helps to portray several themes found in the bible, most dealing with poverty. It reminds us to be grateful and that Jesus was a man of the poor and sickly. Without artists like Valesco to remind us how the bible fits in to everyday life some of the messages of Jesus would be lost forever.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Washing of the Feet

Cappella Scrovegni - The Washing of the Feet
Giotto di Bondone
A Presentation By: Michael Draheim

Throughout the message of the New Testament, we consistently see an image of Jesus that turns the traditional religious structure on its head. The message of the gospel is routinely brought to those who are least in the society contemporary to Jesus, and Jesus himself engages in a number of acts which set the relationship between deity and human creation on its head. The content of this particular fresco by Giotto keeps with this theme, portraying Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. This story, which appears in John 13:1-30, is an integral portion of the Last Supper, in which Jesus shares a final meal with his disciples prior to his betrayal and the passion narrative.

A quick scan of the artwork reveals some telling information about the artist's intention, and the mindset of those who have been maintaining the piece since its creation in 1304. The most obvious observation is that only the halo behind Jesus himself has been maintained in full gold press; with the passing of time, the halos around the twelve disciples have degraded to the point where they simply appear to be blackened blobs. While similar degradation has also occurred to the halo behind Jesus' head, the curator responsible for maintaining the artwork has seen fit to have the piece restored so that there is not a black halo behind the head of Christ as well. It is understandable that leaving the artwork so degraded could be seen as disrespectful towards deity, as the color of black is usually reserved to represent some form of sin or debauchery, yet it does not explain why a similar priority has not been placed on the twelve disciples who are central figures in the early Christian church.

In order to understand the priority that has been placed by the curator, we must understand Giotto's rationale in the creation of his frescoes. Whereas the trends for religious art for the time generally featured frescoes completed in pairs, focussing on a prophesy and its fulfillment through Christ, Giotto took a much more spiritual approach to his work; while still producing his frescoes in pairs, they focussed instead on the human aspect of Jesus and how his work impacted religious thought at the time. Rather than focussing on the fulfillment of textual references, Giotto chose to focus on the spiritual implications of the stories in the New Testament. In this context, it is clear why the curators chose to restore the halo behind Jesus even if no attention was paid to the twelve apostles; with a clear focus on the works of Jesus, he must be highlighted as the central figure in Giotto's work.

While there is plenty of other material for analysis in Giotto's fresco, this serves as the most telling when looking at the context in which the piece was created. What will we take from Giotto's artwork, knowing that he was attempting to emphasize the actions of Christ in his ministry to the apostles? Hopefully a feeling of humility, knowing that we are not above Christ himself, and ought to strive to serve others in our presence as well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Crucifixion

Isenheim Altarpiece - The Crucifixion
Matthias Grunewald

The crucifixion scene is one of the most popular religious scenes to be portrayed in art, so there are many different ways of showing it. After being introduced to Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece in my art history class, I decided to take a closer look into this work, specifically with Grunewald’s The Crucifixion, located on the central panel.

When I first looked at the image, there were many things that I immediately noticed. Jesus is, quite clearly, the center and most important figure in the painting. He immediately sticks out and looks like he is in extreme pain, which is not always portrayed in crucifixion paintings. I also noticed that the other two crosses weren’t present in the background of this picture. As far as the other people in the picture go, I figured that the woman in white was Jesus’ mother Mary, but wasn’t completely sure who she was holding on to or who the woman on the ground and the man on the right were. I saw that there was text next to the man on the right and didn’t know what it said. My attention was also drawn to the lamb on the ground that was holding a cup and I wondered why the artist decided to include it in the piece.

There is some confusion surrounding the actual identity of the artist who created this work. It has been discovered that the last name Grunewald is not correct – it was accidently assigned to him by a German painter and historian in a book written in 1675. Scholars today believe that his real name is either Matthias Gothardt or Matthias Gothardt Neithardt, but his false name is continues to be used. Grunewald was born around 1480 in the German-Bavarian town of Wurzburg. He was a painter, an engineer, a manufacturer of paints and soap, and the designer of the reconstruction of the Aschaffenburg Palace in Bavaria. It can be assumed that he was a respected artist considering he was commission to paint for the Antonite order in Isenheim, which was wealthy and sought only renowned artists to decorate its chapel. Today, barely a dozen of his works are still around, and those that are can be found mostly in German churches and museums.

This image is actually part of a larger work done by Grunewald called the Isenheim Altarpiece. The Altarpiece was created from 1512-1516 for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim, which is currently a part of the eastern region of France, Alsace. The monastery specialized in hospital work and the Antoinite order operated the hospital in Isenheim specifically for victims of Saint Anthony’s Fire, a disease characterized by painful skin eruptions that blackened and became infected, often requiring amputations. The eruptions were accompanied by nervous spasms and convulsions, causing many deaths. The placement of the Altarpiece of Isenheim within the chapel’s hospital was used as a sort of morale booster for the patients suffering from Saint Anthony’s Fire, as a way to show that Jesus went through even more pain and suffering. The Altarpiece consists of nine images on twelve wooden panels containing scenes of the Annunciation, Mary bathing Christ, Crucifixion, Entombment of Christ, Resurrection, Temptation of St. Anthony and saints. There are two sets of wings that make up the altarpiece, which open up to reveal the different scenes. Today the altarpiece can be found in the Musee d’Unterlinden in Colmar, Alsace, France.

There are many interesting details that make The Crucifixion different from many other crucifixion scenes. In the center of the piece is Jesus on the cross. You can see that his skin has sort of a green, sickly tinge to it, which may represent Saint Anthony’s Fire. Jesus’ body also looks a lot more stressed and he looks like he is in a great deal of pain. It’s also easy to notice the blood coming out of Jesus’ side, where he was struck with the spear and the contrast of the red color of his blood with the green color of his body. The fact that the wound from the spear is shown allows us to assume that this particular crucifixion scene is being portrayed from the Gospel of John. Something to notice also is that all of the characters in the piece are different sizes, something not common of a Renaissance era piece; this difference in size is more characteristic of medieval works. In art, commonly the size of the person is linked to the artist’s view of their importance. To the left of Jesus, there are three people. Mary, the mother of Jesus is dressed in all white and is fainting into the arms of St. John the Evangelist, the author of the Gospel of John, who is dressed in all red. On the ground, is the much smaller Mary Magdalene, who is sitting next to her vessel of ointments and is wringing her hands in sorrow. To the right of Jesus is John the Baptist, who chronologically would have been long dead by the time of the crucifixion. John is seen with his finger up in the air pointing to Jesus with the words he spoke in John 3:30 next to him, “He must increase, and I must decrease” – clearly something that the author wanted those who viewed the altarpiece to think about. On the ground below John the Baptist there is the figure of the sacrificial lamb who is pouring out its blood into the cup of communion it is holding, signifying our sins that Jesus was dying for.

This work could be seen as controversial to some because of the way that Jesus is being portrayed. Jesus is made to look very human in this piece, which has caused controversy over time. Some controversy over the piece may also lie in the fact that the chronology doesn’t make sense, due to the fact that John the Baptist was not alive at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In some way, I think that this depiction of the crucifixion is more realistic than some of the others that I have seen. The portrayal of Jesus seems more like what it would’ve been like realistically – he would appear sickly and like he was in a great deal of pain. Other elements of the painting, however, do not make it historically accurate, but do bring forth interesting questions surrounding the artist and his purpose.