Four Paintings of the Crucifixion, #2

Crucifixion – Pierre Paul Prud’hon, 1822

Background. Painted after the death of his student and lover, Constance Mayer, Prud’hon captures the desolation and despair of Christ’s desertion. Physically (with the exception of the nails through the feet), this is a beautiful picture, but emotionally very dark. Jesus’ face is half hidden in the darkness as are the two people who are on either side of is cross. I am not sure who the two people at the foot of the cross are.  Who is the man hidden in the dark to the right of the cross. Is the woman at the left portrait of Constance Mayer, standing in for Mary Magdalene? Why does she gently caress the nailed foot and why does the artist put a spotlight on this particular detail?

For me this picture conveys the feeling Jesus had when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even more it conveys the grief and despair of those who gather at the foot of the cross as they look upon their friend.

I invite you to take a few minutes to meditate on the painting and the scripture. I’d be interested in your thoughts and feelings.

Scripture: Lamentations 1: 12-14

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.

“From on high he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back; he has left me stunned, faint all the day long.

“My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand.”

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