Art Notes: The Crucifixion by Raphael

Authored by Dr. Lionel Gracey in Issue #35.1 of The Sower

Painted in 1503, when Raphael was only twenty years old, this work could easily be mistaken for one by Raphael’s master, Perugino. The painting, however, is signed and dated at the foot of the Cross, so the provenance is certain. It was made as an altarpiece for a side chapel dedicated to St. Jerome in the Church of San Domanico, Citta di Castello, in Tuscany. The stone frame for the painting is still in place. Below it, the Predella comprised three paintings of episodes in the life of St. Jerome, but these have also been removed, though two survived.

Raphael depicts the moment of Christ’s death on the Cross. Two angels with communion chalices collect the blood gushing from the wounds in the Saviour’s hands and side. Beneath the Cross the Virgin and St John are shown standing, while the two penitents, St. Jerome and St. Mary Magdalene, are kneeling.

St. Jerome carries a stone in his right hand with which to beat his bare breast in mortification. The Cross and the human figures are set on bare earth, but further back there is life-giving water, and vegetation covers the ground, ground which merges gently with the heavenly horizon. Above the Cross, the sun and a darkened moon attest to the cosmic significance of the event being enacted below.

This is a richly symbolic painting, the central theme of which is the Eucharist. Notice first the Cross on which the Saviour hangs. This extends from top to bottom of the painting and signifies that only through the Cross may earth and heaven be reunited.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Practical Sacramentals in the Domestic Church
By Fr. Tyron Tomson
Free The domestic church inhabits a domicile: an apartment, a mansion, a cabin, a farmhouse, a penthouse, any kind of dwelling that we call home. Everyone from the quasi-agnostic Jungian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson to the viral video sensation Navy Admiral William McRaven to your own mother advocates tidying up your living space as the first step... Read more
Sacramentales prácticos en la iglesia doméstica
By Fr. Tyron Tomson
La iglesia doméstica ocupa un domicilio: un departamento, una mansión, una cabaña, una granja, un pent-house, cualquier tipo de vivienda a la que llamamos hogar. Todo el mundo, desde el psicólogo junguiano casi agnóstico, Jordan Peterson, al “influencer” que se ha vuelto viral, el almirante de la marina William McRaven, y hasta tu propia mamá... Read more
The Family of Mary at Her Presentation in the Temple
By Jem Sullivan
Who prepared the young heart and mind of Mary to respond to God in humble faith with a fiat, her yes to the Archangel Gabriel? Where did Mary, the Mother of God, learn to listen attentively to God’s word? The beautiful painting The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple , by Italian artist Andrea di Bartolo in the first decade of the fifteenth... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now