Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Friday

The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning by Rogier van der Weyden, 1460-65.

From the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 167.
by Katherine Crawford Luber, 1995:

The greatest old master painting in the Museum, Rogier van der Weyden's diptych presents the Crucifixion as a timeless dramatic narrative. To convey overwhelming depths of human emotion, Rogier located monumental forms in a shallow, austere, nocturnal space accented only by brilliant red hangings. He focused on the experience of the Virgin, her unbearable grief expressed by her swooning into the arms of John the Evangelist. The intensity of her anguish is echoed in the agitated, fluttering loincloth that moves around Christ's motionless body as if the air itself were astir with sorrow. Rogier's use of two panels in a diptych, rather than the more usual three found in a triptych, is rare in paintings of this period, and allowed the artist to balance the human despair at the darkest hour of the Christian faith against the promise of redemption.

I only add to Ms. Luber's beautiful discussion that the duality of the two sides of the diptych, with the overwhelming emotion in Mary on one side, and the austere presentation of the suffering Christ on the other, is not total but is broken by the small piece of Mary's garment that slips to the other side.

You can see this painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where its presence dominates the Medieval section of the museum.

1 comment:

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