Dali and St. John of the Cross

In honor of Salvador Dali’s birthday today: Christ of St. John of the Cross.

Dali’s painting was inspired by a sketch done by St. John while he was chaplain of the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. One day, while praying in a loft overlooking the sanctuary, he was struck by a vision, and hastily made a sketch in pen. This is what he saw:

It is Christ, weighed down by the sins of the world and his own suffering, as if seen from the perspective of the Father. It’s a unique and powerful perspective.

St. John was suspicious of visions, and didn’t think much of it. The sketch was given to one of his penitents, and passed on to her prioress after her death. It was displayed in a monstrance until 1968, when it was removed to be studied and restored, before being returned to the monastery.

Dali had this to say about his version of the painting:

In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ! In the second place, when thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which ‘aesthetically’ summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle.

More on St. John.

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