Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Jesuits Of Madrid And The Dead Christ

Gregorio Fernández, not long before his death at 60 in 1636, he carved for the Jesuits in Madrid a life-size figure of Dead Christ.

Scrawny, as opposed to muscularly Michelangelesque, the recumbent pose angular and uneasy, this Christ recalls the gothic tradition of dying and dead Christs, the contrast of blood congealed and wounds sugaring with pale exsanguinated flesh quite horrifying in its realism, the body's pallor enhanced by the white crumpled sheet beneath it and the soft aquamarine blue of the cloth about his loins.

In this last, the grain of the timber has been deliberately exploited to give the semblance of silk, for unlike the underlying timber of Christ's flesh, this element has not been primed with gesso to obscure the grain - the pale blue, too, was as common in medieval Chinese silk as it is now in moiré silk.

From the wondrously fine fold forms and selvages of this loin cloth, realism extends further in the eyes of glass, the toe and fingernails of ox-horn and the coagulated blood of crumbled cork.

Link (here)

The theme of the dead Christ, crucified or gisant, was treated frequently by Fernandez. After the 16th century the scene was reduced to the representation of Christ alone, without the traditional mourners. Here, anecdote is suppressed; this is the Christ of Sorrows, stiffened in the rigor of death - the extreme expression of realism in sculpture. The bone structure is insistently marked, the eyes hollow, the cheeks sunken. The very realistic polychromy accentuates the physical aspect of the Passion; streams of coagulated blood run down the cheeks and disappear into the beard. Such conceptions emphasize the function of image that 17th-century Spanish sculpture served.

Link (here) with photo of the statue

Standing over the Dead Christ, by Gregorio Fernàndez, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said it showed "the eternal desire of God to embrace all suffering, all human brokenness. There's no place of darkness that He will not reach."

Link (here)

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