I am a retired English professor and college administrator. I have written over 20 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.
No gnostic painting, this.
Art historians and others have often noted that this painting, as part of the Isenheim Altarpiece, originally stood in a monastic hospital for incurable skin disease-sufferers. This painting would have had particular resonance for those patients. J.K. Huysmans, the French novelist, wrote:
That awful Christ who hung dying over the altar of the Isenheim hospital would seem to have been made in the image of the ergotics who prayed to him; they must surely have found consolation in the thought that this God they invoked had suffered the same torments as themselves, and had become flesh in a form as repulsive as their own; and they must have felt less forsaken, less contemptible. It is easy to see why Grünewald's name, unlike the names of Holbein, Cranach and Dürer, is not to be found in the account-books or the records of commissions left by emperors and princes. His pestiferous Christ would have offended the taste of the courts; he could only be understood by the sick, the unhappy and the monks, by the suffering members of Christ. http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/jkh/grunewald.htm…
The Cranach community must pardon the slight against their namesake!
This image runs into the sidebar on my screen; here's a link to the non-obstructed painting: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/g/grunewald/grun…
Here's an even better version: http://faculty.wartburg.edu/wilson/arthistory/ima…
Thanks, Tickletext! Now this is a painting of the crux worthy of its name. While, however, Grunewald did not back away from showing the explicit suffering of the Christ, it may be worth noting that he added an ahistorical piece of garb. Did not Jesus have his clothing taken from him at His crucifixion? Nakedness and shame were all part of the fine-tuning the Romans brought to this torture device they inherited.
Good point, Bruce. Of course, Grunewald was not the only artist garbing Christ. My impression is that not too many Christian artists have gone fully frontal. Consider even those Renaissance humanists who were famous for showing the nude body so frequently and boldly: they painted many naked pictures of the Christ-child, but, for whatever reason, they rarely depicted him fully naked as an adult, even on the cross. One of the few exceptions is Michelangelo's Risen Christ sculpture (and even that was subsequently covered up). The book to read is The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and In Modern Oblivion.
A notable contemporary exception is the work of Edward Knippers, which often features a prominently nude, fully gendered Christ.
This is my favorite depiction of Christ. I wish I had a full size detailed print of it to hang prominently at the church. The hospital story as its background is amazing!
So different from most other "sanctified" pictures of Christ, especially here in Utah.
To all our Western brethren celebrating the Resurrection today, have a very blessed Pascha!
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb, bestowing Life! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ is risen! Christos aneste! Al-Masih qam! M'shee ho dkom! Kristos tenestwal! Christos voskrese! Chrystos voskres! Hristos a înviat! Christos haryav i merelotz! Krishti u ngjall! Kristus aq ungwektaq!
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