Friday, April 22, 2011

The Derision of Christ by Anthony van Dyck

Van Dyck painted this in 1620. It has all the classic baroque elements that reflect the Catholic worldview as discussed in previously in regard to, for example, Procaccini's Scourging of Christ.

Consider it in the context of the difference between portrait and sacred art when considering the work of Matthew James Collins: Van Dyck is one of the greatest portrait artists ever, yet he is careful not paint any of these figures as portraits. Each face is either in profile or shadow. The psychological aspects are transmitted through gesture rather than dramatic or exaggerated facial expression. Notice how, for example, he directs our thoughts towards the person of Christ by putting his face in shadow. It is not that he wants us to ignore Our Lord's face, but rather, given our natural tendency always to focus more on the face of the person, if it is downplayed relative to the rest, it results in a more balanced appreciation of whole person and the general human characteristics with which we can identify.

As a meditation, here is a passage from the Office of Readings of Tuesday of Holy Week that struck a chord with me. The words are by St Basil and taken from the book On the Holy Spirit:

When mankind was estranged from him by disobedience, God our Saviour made a plan for raising us from our fall and restoring us to friendship with himself. According to this plan Christ came in the flesh, he showed us the gospel way of life, he suffered, died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. He did this so that we could be saved by imitation of him, and recover our original status as sons of God by adoption.

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