La Mezquita in Cordoba – Part I

Κυριακή, 27 Ιουνίου, 2010

I am not familiar with Islamic art. But my recent visit to the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain was an ecstatic experience. This is the first part of an article on the Mezquita of Cordoba.

Detail from the Door of the Dean

I start with some history, borrowed from the vast resources of the Metropolian Museum of Art in New York, then continue with a short tour of the outside, and conclude the first part with the entrance in the Mezquita and the first impressions and feelings.

“On July 19, 711, an army of Arabs and Berbers unified under the aegis of the Islamic Umayyad caliphate landed on the Iberian Peninsula. Over the next seven years, through diplomacy and warfare, they brought the entire peninsula except for Galicia and Asturias in the far north under Islamic control; however, frontiers with the Christian north were constantly in flux. The new Islamic territories, referred to as al-Andalus by Muslims, were administered by a provincial government established in the name of the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus and centered in Córdoba. Of works of art and other material culture only coins and scant ceramic fragments remain from this early period of the Umayyad governors (711–56).

When the Umayyad caliphate of Damascus was overthrown by the Abbasids in 750, the last surviving member of the Umayyad dynasty fled to Spain, establishing himself as Emir Abd al-Rahman I and thus initiating the Umayyad emirate (756–929). Abd al-Rahman I (r. 756–88) made Córdoba his capital and unified al-Andalus under his rule with a firm hand, while establishing diplomatic ties with the northern Christian kingdoms, North Africa, and the Byzantine empire and maintaining cultural contact with the Abbasids in Baghdad. The initial construction of the Great Mosque of Córdoba under his patronage was the crowning achievement of this formative period of Hispano-Islamic art and architecture.”

(Source: The Art of the Umayyad Period in Spain (711–1031) | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Aerial view of the Mezquita in Cordoba (source: Wikipedia)

The Great Mosque of Cordoba was built over a period of three centuries, from the 8th to the 11th. It is a rectangle with a orange tree court with a basin adjacent to it. This court is the oldest Moorish garden in Spain (marked as 7 in the plan that follows).

The concept was to imitate if not exceed the Great Mosque of Damascus.

At the edge of the tree line at the bottom of the photo is the bank of the famous river, Guadalquivir. The plan of the Mezquita that follows is “turned upside down” compared to the photo. The river is at the top. The resolution of the plan is high so that you can download it and view it in full resolution for the details.

The Minaret, enveloped by a Baroque Tower in 17c

Door of Forgiveness (1 in the plan)

Puerta San Esteban (Door of Saint Stephen) - Marked 3 on the plan


Puerta San Miguel (Door of Saint Michael’s) – Marked 4 on the Plan.

Door of the Psalms, viewed from the Orange Tree Court – Marked 6 on the Plan.

Carved wooden beams in the cloisters – detail (Marked 8 on the plan)

When the Moors first arrived in Cordoba, they were content to share the Visigothic Church of Saint Vincent with the Christians. When this became insufficient, AdbAl-Rahman purchased their part and started building  the Mosque (marked 9 on the plan) with 11 aisles, opening onto the Orange Tree Court. The architectural innovation in the mosque was the superimposition of two tiers of arches to give added height and spaciousness. They used marble pillars and Roman stone from St Vicent’s Church and other buildings in the area.

Once you are inside (you enter in the area marked 8 on the plan) you get overwhelmed by the “forest of pillars” as one traveler put it, and the  completely new feeling of space. It is as if space is distorted, but yet it returns to its normal state, If there is one thing that I will never forget from my visit there is this “feeling” of space. The last time I felt this was when I visited the Chillida museum in the Basque country. The photos cannot convey this feeling, but you get an idea.

This is one of the corridors that take you from the entrance to the Mihrab (marked 13 on the plan), which you can barely see at the end. The two pillars at the beginning of this corridor are supporting the Christian Cathedral that is almost embedded in the Great Mosque. In the photo below you see the parallel corridor on the left as we face the Mihrab.

As I walk down this corridor with direction towards the Mihrab, I get to see some of the marvelous arches within arches of the Great Mosque.

With these first impressions of the inside area, I conclude Part I of my visit to the Mezquita of Cordoba.

In Part II I will cover the Christian Cathedral and the area of the Mahrib.

Agony in the Garden

Παρασκευή, 2 Απριλίου, 2010

“This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written:
‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed';
but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”

“Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

Jesus spent one night in the garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and prior to his arrest by the mob.

He went there to pray accompanied by St. Peter, St. John and St. James.

Mosaic in San Marco, Venice (1200)

His state of mind was confused and ambivalent.

He prayed three times.

It appears to be a discussion with his Father, but it is in essence a discussion with himself.

Before committing to the Sacrifice.

Agony in the Garden refers to this state of mind.

Mosaic in San Marco, Venice (1200) – Detail

Jesus is sad and anxious.

He is not ready yet for the Sacrifice.

“My Father, let this Cup pass by me”.

Buoninsegna (1308)

Human, all too human!

This is the Greatest moment in the life of Jesus as a Human!

He openly admits that his desire for life is greater than his willingness to save humanity.

“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”

Giovanni Bellini (1495)

He asked his pupils to stay awake and pray, but every time he checked up on them they were asleep.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”

Andrea Mantegna (1460)

After his third prayer, he returned to his pupils and found them asleep again.
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

Boticcelli (1500)

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.”

Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.”

El Greco (1595)

“Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.”

El Greco (1608)

(All quotations from the Gospel by Mathew)

Ravenna! The Italian jewel of Byzantium – Part I: San Vitale

Δευτέρα, 21 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2009

Today I visit Ravenna, a sleepy small town near the Adriatic Coast. Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy in the sixth century (540), and remained so until 751, when the Lombards took it.

What makes Ravenna unique is the Byzantine treasures that have survived over the centuries and carefully been restored, the mosaics that adourn so many churches and monuments.

In this first part I present some of the highlights of the beautiful Church of San Vitale. The church was built in the middle of the sixth century and is the only church from the period of Emperor Justinian, that has survived the centuries.

justinian In one of the spectacular panels of the church, the Emperor who made Ravenna the capital of Byzantium in the West is seen with his entourage and Bishop Maximian.

panel_justinianThe Church was dedicated to Bishop Maximian in 547 and he is the nly named figure in the panel.

maximianIn another panel, we see a young, beardless Christ

face1giving the crown of martyrdom to St. Vitalis, while Bishop Exxlesius is presenting a model of the Church. Ecclesius was the Bishop who started the building of the Chuch in 526.

major1The representation of Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God is stunning.Agnus Dei is the allegorical representation of the “Sacrifice” of Christ.


Agnus Dei is positioned directly above the altar.


over1The mosais on the Arches are by themselves masterpieces.

saviourWhat a wonsderful depiction of our Saviour! Encircled by four dolphins!

decorativeThis decorative detail is the best testimony to the absolute glory of the church’s mosaics.

empressEmpress Theodora and her friends.

inside1The church is full of symbolic images, figures and episodes from the Testament.

inside2Abel and Melchizedek.

inside3San Vitale is a treasure that cannot be exhaused easily. I feel I need to go back again and again. Same feeling I had in Moni Choras.

Σημερα μια μερα μετα την 15η Αυγουστου, θελω να μοιραστω μαζι σας δυο τοιχογραφιες απο τη Μονη Πρωτατου στο Αγιο Ορος, δια χειρος Μανουηλ Πανσεληνου.

Today, one day after the dormition of the Virgin, I want to share with you two frescoes of the Protaton Monastery in Mount Athos, Greece. They are the work of the celebrated 14th century painter Manouil Panselinos.


Η Βρεφοκρατουσα εχει ολα τα χαρακτηριστικα της τεχνης του Πανσεληνου. Διακατεχεται απο μια ηρεμια και εγκρατεια μεσα απο τα ελληνιστικα της στοιχεια, που ενω δενουν με τα βυζαντινα, δεν εχουν την αυστηροτητα που χαρακτηριζουν τις υστερες σχολες. Το βρεφος ειναι ενας μικρος φιλοσοφος, δεν ειναι δηλαδη βρεφος αλλα παιδι αρα και ο τιτλος θα επρεπε να ειναι παιδοκρατουσα.

The Virgin fresco has all the features of Panselinos’ art. It radiates calm and self-composure, features of portraits of the Hellenistic period. They blend with Byzantine art but do not have the out of this world austerity of later Byzantine periods. The Child is a young philosopher, almost melancholic.


Ο Χριστος Σωτηρας ειναι εν προκειμενω το γλυκυ εαρ, ο μελαγχολικος αλλα σταθερος και ηρεμος θνητος εν παροδω.

Jesus the Saviour is the “Sweet Spring”, the steady, calm, but melancholic human passing through life.


Τις φωτογραφιες τις πηρα εγω την 14η Αυγουστου, με την ευγενικη αδεια της Μονης, κατω απο δυσκολες συνθηκες, μια και η Μονη ειναι γεματη σκαλωσιες και πρακτικα δεν εχει φωτισμο (εκτος απο τα κερια).

I took these photos on the 14th August, with the kind permission of the monastery under difficult light conditions. The monastery is full of scaffolding and the only light comes from the lit candles.

Θα συνεχισω με περισσοτερες φωτογραφιες απο τις τοιχογραφιες του Πανσεληνου.

Προς το παρον ας μας βοηθα η Χαρη Της.

Σημερα συνεχιζω με την Κωνσταντινουπολη, με εμφαση στην γειτονια του Σουλταναχμετ, τη γειτονια των ονειρων, εκει που βρισκεται η Αγια Σοφια. Πριν φτασω ομως εκει θα κανω μια μικρη παρεκκλιση για να περασω απο την υπεροχη “Μονη της Χωρας” (Kariye) οπου και βρισκονται εντυπωσιακα ψηφιδωτα απο τον 12 και 13  αιωνα.

Μονη Χωρας

Μονη Χωρας

Η Μονη της Χωρας βρισκεται σε μια γειτονια κοντα στα παλια τειχη, οταν δε χτιστηκε βρισκοταν εκτος των τειχων. Στον χαρτη που ακολουθει, η Μονη βρισκεται επανω αριστερα.

Kariye Museum Google Map

Μητηρ Θεου - Θολος στο Παρεκκλησι

Μητηρ Θεου – Θολος στο Παρεκκλησι

Ξεκινω με την Μητερα του Θεου απο το Παρεκκλησι της Εκκλησιας, που οπως βλεπετε εχει και καταπληκτικες τοιχογραφιες.



Ο Παντοκρατωρ της Μονης Χωρας ειναι απο τα ωραιοτερα ψηφιδωτα που εχω δει.

balconyΤο χαρακτηριστικο αυτο σπιτι βρισκεται ακριβως απεναντι απο τη Μονη, που σημερα ειναι Μουσειο. Με εντυπωσιασε εκτος των αλλων, οτι μεσα στην Εκκλησια συναντησα ενα γκρουπ απο νεες πανεμορφες κοπελλες Τουρκαλες – μαλλον φασιον μπιζνες – με ξεναγο, που εμειναν τουλαχιστον μια ωρα!


Συνεχιζω με τη γειτονια του Σουλταναχμετ.

Sultanahmet Google MapMap

Yeni Cami - New Mosque

Yeni Cami – New Mosque

Καθως περνας την Γεφυρα του Γαλατα στον Κερατιο Κολπο φτανεις σε μια μεγαλη πλατεια, οπου δεσποζει το Νεο Τζαμι, που χτιστηκε τον 16 αιωνα, μετα απο εντολη της Φατιγιε, της γυναικας του Σουλτανου (της Σουλτανας δηλαδη).

Yeni Capi with flags

Yeni Capi with flags

Επειδη εκεινες τις ημερες ειχαν δημοτικες εκλογες, πηρα και μια φωτο με ολα τα σημαιακια που ειχαν στολισει την πλατεια. Και μαζι και τον πλανοδιο πωλητη που κουβαλαει ολες τις σημαιες της Τουρκιας, με τον Πατερα Κεμαλ μπροστα.

Πλανοδιος Πωλητης

Το υπερλαμπρο μνημειο της Ορθοδοξης Χριστιανοσυνης βρισκεται στη γειτονια αυτη. Η Αγια Σοφια.


Το ψηφιδωτο αυτο βρισκεται ακριβως στην εισοδο του Ναου και σε προδιαθετει για το τι θα ακολουθησει.

as_inside_viewIIΤο μεγαλοπρεπο εσψτερικο σου προκαλει δεος, ακομη κι ετσι που εγινε “Μουσειο”, και με ολες τις επικαλυψειςτων χριστιανικων συμβολων και εικονων.


Μεγαλοπρεπεια, δεος, συγκινηση, τι να πρωτοπει κανεις.

Οι κοπελλες με τις μαντηλες

Οι κοπελλες με τις μαντηλες

Ο,τι και να πει κανεις ομως, η Αγια Σοφια ειναι ενα απο τα αξιοθεατα της Πολης και για τους Τουρκους. Οι κοπελλες με τις μαντηλες ειναι μια μικρη ματρυρια για αυτο.

angelΟ χρυσοποικιλτος αγγελος εστω και μισος εχει μια αξεπεραστη ομορφια.

Μητηρ Θεου

Μητηρ Θεου

Η Μητηρ Θεου και στη συνεχεια η Βρεφοκρατουσα.



Ο Ιησους της αφατης αγαπης και ειρηνης.



Ιωαννης ο Προδρομος

Ιωαννης ο Προδρομος

Ιωαννης ο Προδρομος

Μια γρηγορη βολτα τωρα στο παλατι Τοπ Καπι.

Αγια Ειρηνη

Αγια Ειρηνη

Μολις μπεις στο παρκο του Παλατιου, αριστερα βρισκεται ο υπεροχος Ναος της Αγιας Ειρηνης, που δυστυχως δεν ειναι επισκεψιμος. Στο βαθος αριστερα η Αγια Σοφια.



ΠΑρολο που μου αρεσουν αρκετα απο τα εσωτερικα, οι κηποι του Τοπ Καπι ειναι αριστουργημα!


Κλεινω με μια παρασταση απο το περιπτερο του Σουλτανου.

Καλην ημερα!

Ο Τάϊβ συνεχιζει την προσπαθεια και μεσα στην ολη αυτη διαδικασια, που εισαι και δεν εισαι, ανεσυρα απο το ερμαριο τις φωτογραφιες που ειχα βγαλει σε μια ανοιξιατικη επισκεψη στην Κωνσταντινουπολη και επελεξα μερικες για την αναρτηση αυτη που θα εχει δυο μερη.

Μερικες βδομαδες πριν ειχα αναρτησει φωτογραφιες με χρωματα κι αρωματα, εστιαζοντας στη γαστρονομια. Σημερα ο τονος αλλαζει, εστιαζω στο αστικο τοπιο αλλα και το θρησκευτικο.


Η Κωνσταντινουπολη ειναι μια τεραστια πολη, με πανω απο 15 εκατομμυρια κατοικους. Η εσωτερικη μεταναστευση αυξανει συνεχεια τον πληθυσμο. Ειναι μια πολη αντιθεσεων, μπορεις να βρεις τα πιο συγχρονα κτιρια και εγκαταστασεις, αλλα και σχεδον πρωτογονα.

Ξεκιναω το πρωτο μερος με μια βολτα στην παληα ελληνικη γειτονια της Περα που σημερα λεγεται Μπειογλου και θα κατηφορισω αργοτερα για να περασω απεναντι στη δυτικη μερια  στο Σουλταναχμετ. Αυτο θα ειναι το δευτερο μερος.


Η Περα στις αρχες του 20 αιωνα εσφιζε απο ζωη και η αρχιτεκτονικη της ηταν επηρρεασμενη εντονα απο τη Δυση.

Ακομα και σημερα η γειτονια συγκεντρωνει πολλες φυλες και εθνοτητες, και ειναι γεματη χριστιανικες εκκλησιες και συναγωγες, κατι που δεν βλεπεις σε αλλες περιοχες της Πολης.


Η κυρια οδος που διασχιζει την Περα οδηγει στην πλατεια Ταξιμ και εχει απολα.


Μεγαλοπρεπες κατοικιες και κτιρια, που αλλα ειναι στην τριχα, και αλλα ειναι για κατεδαφιση. Αυτη η συνυπαρξη ειναι το χαρακτηριστικο της γειτονιας.

sokakΚαι σοκακια, πολλα σοκακια, απο δω κι εκει, που χανεσαι και δεν ξαναγυρνας.

fountainΚαι σχεδον κρυμμενοι, οι κρουνοι με τα μαρμαρα και τα καλλιτεχνηματα!

gateΣτα ενυπωσιακα κτηρια, υπαρχουν πυλες με καλα δουλεμενα σχεδια και επιγραφες.

BuilldingΠολλοι δρομοι ειναι γεματοι με κτηρια με αυτο το στυλ απο τον 19 αιωνα.

dishesΛιγο παραδιπλα βλεπεις αυτο και συνειδητοποιεις οτι στη γειτονια συνυπαρχουν εποχες, ταξεις οικονομικες, εθνοτητες διαφορετικες.

monumnet_taksim_squareΗ πλατεια Ταξιμ ειναι το συγχρονο κεντρο της πολης, με το μνημειο αυτο να δεσποζει και να θυμιζει στους επισκεπτες οτι η Τουρκια ειναι δημιουργημα του Ατατουρκ.

taksimsquareΣτα συνορα της πλατειας, σε αποσταση αναπνοης απο το μνημειο του Ατατουρκ, ακομα μια χριστιανικη εκκλησια μεσα στις τοσες και τοσες!

streetmusicΚατηφοριζοντας στον κεντρικο δρομο πεφτω πανω σε μουσικους. Ο ηχος ειναι μελαγχολικος και τρυφερος.

goldenhornsunsetΗ μερα τελειωσε. Μαζι της και το πρωτο μερος.

Ανασταση (Resurrection)

Σάββατο, 18 Απριλίου, 2009

Σημερα γιορταζουμε την Ανασταση στην Ορθοδοξη Εκκλησια και θελω να μοιραστω μαζι σας την καλυτερη απεικονιση της Αναστασης ολων των εποχων. Στις προηγουμενες αναρτησεις για την Σταυρωση και την Αποκαθηλωση η προτιμηση μου στραφηκε στη Δυση, με την Ανασταση γυρναω στην Ανατολη, και δη την Βασιλευουσα Πολη.

Στην Μονη της Χωρας, στην Κωνσταντινουπολη υπαρχει η ωραιοτερη απεικονιση της Αναστασης που εχω δει ποτε. Για το λογο αυτο δεν θα περασω σημερα σε παραθεση πολλων εργων. Η τοιχογραφια στο παρεκκλησι της Μονης ειναι μοναδικο αριστουργημα. Θεωρειται οτι ολοκληρωθηκε στο πρωτο μισο του 14ου αιωνα. 



Η συνθεση ειναι μεγαλοπρεπης. Ο Ιησους ελκει τον Αδαμ και την Ευα απο τους ταφους, ενω ο Σατανας κειται στο εδαφος αλυσοδεμενος αναμεσα στα σκορπισμενα απομειναρια απο τις Πυλες του Αδη.

Το μεγαλειο της απεικονισης φαινεται στην επομενη λεπτομερεια.

Ο Αναστας Κυριος

Ο Αναστας Κυριος

Ο Ιησους περιβαλλεται απο ενα κουβουκλιο με αστερια και λαμψη λαμπρη.Το σωμα του εχει μια κλιση που αποδιδει κινηση και ενεργεια, ανεστηθη και θα αναστησει μαζι του και αλλους πολλους! 

Η γυναικα Ευα ειναι και η Μητερα του η Παναγια! 

Στην επομενη λεπτομερεια, ο Αδαμ κρατιεται απο το χερι του Ιησου. Ο Αδαμ ως σεβασμιος γερων!

Τα χρωματα ειναι απαλα, παστελ, τυπικα της Παλαιολογιας εποχης.



Ο Χρηστος Γιανναρας εχει αναπτυξει την πιο ενδιαφερουσα θεωρια για το νοημα της Αναστασης στην Ορθοδοξη Χριστιανοσυνη. Ειναι, λεει, η αρνηση της μονηρους υπαρξεως, η κατανικηση του θανατου δια της ενσωματωσεως εις το σωμα της εκκλησιας, που αποτελει το συνολο των πιστων που υπαρχουν οχι ως μοναδες, αλλα ως ενεργοι μετεχοντες πιστοι.  Δεν ξερω αν το απεδωσα καλα, αλλα το βρισκω πολυ αισιοδοξο και πρωτοτυπο σαν αντιληψη, και θα ηθελα να κλεισω το σημερινο αναστασιμο αρθρο με αυτη την αναφορα.

Ευχομαι σε ολους τους φιλους και περαστικους Καλη Ανασταση και Καλο Πασχα! 


“Η ανάσταση του Χριστού δεν περιγράφεται στα τέσσερα ευαγγέλια της Καινής Διαθήκης. Δίδονται μόνο οι μαρτυρίες ανδρών και γυναικών που επισκέφτηκαν τον κενό τάφο ή συναντήθηκαν με τον αναστημένο Χριστό. Γι’ αυτό άλλωστε και η βυζαντινή εικονογραφία – πλην ορισμένων περιπτώσεων που μαρτυρούν μάλλον δυτική αναγεννησιακή επίδραση – παριστάνει όχι τη σκηνή της ανάστασης αλλά τον αναστημένο Χριστό να σηκώνει από το βασίλειο του Αδη έναν άνδρα (τον Αδάμ) και μια γυναίκα (την Εύα) ως εκπροσώπους του ανθρώπινου γένους, υπογραμμίζοντας έτσι τις ανθρωπολογικές προεκτάσεις της ανάστασης. Ωστόσο το Ευαγγέλιο του Πέτρου, ένα κείμενο του 2ου αιώνα μ.Χ., δίνει μια φανταστική περιγραφή της ανάστασης παρουσιάζοντας τον Χριστό με υπεράνθρωπες, μυθικές διαστάσεις να εξέρχεται του τάφου:

«Καθώς ξημέρωνε το Σάββατο, νωρίς το πρωί ήρθε πλήθος κόσμου από την Ιερουσαλήμ και τη γύρω περιοχή, για να δουν τον σφραγισμένο τάφο. Τη νύχτα όμως κατά την οποία ξημέρωνε η Κυριακή, οι στρατιώτες είδαν τους ουρανούς να ανοίγουν και δύο άνδρες να κατεβαίνουν από ‘κεί μέσα σε λαμπερό φως και να πλησιάζουν τον τάφο. Εκείνη η πέτρα που είχε τοποθετηθεί μπροστά στην είσοδο κύλησε από μόνη της και ήρθε στο πλάι, ο τάφος άνοιξε και οι δύο νεανίσκοι μπήκαν μέσα. Οταν λοιπόν οι στρατιώτες τα είδαν αυτά,ξύπνησαν τον εκατόνταρχο και τους πρεσβυτέρους – γιατί κι αυτοί επίσης φύλαγαν τον τάφο. Και ενώ αφηγούνταν αυτά που είδαν, βλέπουν πάλι να βγαίνουν από τον τάφο τρεις άνδρες, οι δύο από αυτούς υποβάσταζαν τον ένα και τους ακολουθούσε ένας σταυρός. Των μεν δύο το κεφάλι έφτανε ως τον ουρανό, ενώ του άλλου που τον οδηγούσαν το κεφάλι ξεπερνούσε τους ουρανούς. Οταν τα είδαν αυτά ο εκατόνταρχος και οι άνθρωποί του,έσπευσαν νύχτα στον Πιλάτο αφήνοντας τον τάφο που φρουρούσαν και ανέφεραν όλα αυτά που είδαν. Είχαν μεγάλη ταραχή και έλεγαν: “Αληθινά, αυτός ήταν ο Υιός του Θεού”».”

Πηγη: Ιωαννη Καραβιδοπουλου “Τα Πάθη και η Ανάσταση στα απόκρυφα ευαγγέλια” Εφημεριδα ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ


Παρασκευή, 17 Απριλίου, 2009

Today is the day of the Deposition from the Cross. I would like to share with you some paintings on the subject that goes hand in hand with “Pieta”, but is more public. Pieta is a more private, more intimate grieving process, whereas the “Deposition” is open to the public, and manifests the drama of Humanity, as opposed to the personal drama of Mary who grieves for her child.


Rogier van der Weyden

Rogier van der Weyden - Deposition

Rogier van der Weyden - Deposition

Deposition (c. 1440)

Museo del Prado, Padrid, Espagna

This is one of all times favourite paintings. The colours are brilliant, the composition static and dynamic at the same time, and the painting is powerful in conveying the emotions of the tragic process. I love the golden background, this glorious light in the moment of facing and contemplating Death. The figures are life sizes, each one of them tells a story. A visit to the Prado with all of its treasures is incomplete without viewing this masterpiece of late Gothic Art. 



Rafael - Deposition

Raphael - Deposition

Deposition (1508)

Galleria Borghese, Roma, Italia

Raphael’s Deposition was painted for Atalanta Baglioni in memory of her son Grifonetto, who was killed in the fighting for the dominance of Perugia, and housed in the church of S.Francesco in Perugia in 1507. It remained there for 101 years, until it was removed at night with the complicity of the priest and sent to Pope Paul V, who gave it to his nephew for his collection and it thus became the property of the Borghese family. After the Treaty of Tolentino the painting was sent to Paris in 1797. When it came back to Rome in 1816, only the central scene was returned to the Borghese collection, while the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, remained in the Vatican Museums (the ornamentation surmounting it by Tiberio Alfani is in the National Gallery of Umbria).
This large altarpiece presents the scene like a Roman relief and is inspired by the reliefs on ancient Roman sarcophagi depicting the transportation of Meleager. It is interesting to note that in his preliminary sketch the artist has drawn Christ lying in the ground, as in the painting by Perugino, but when he executed the painting he decided on the antique form oftransportation, as seen in a relief he probably studied on the Montalvo sarcophagus in Florence (now in the Torno Collection, Milan). But the influence of Michelangelo can also be seen in the composition of Christ (cf. the Pietà, St.Peter’s) and the figure seen in the profile supporting the Madonna repeats a similar pose in the Doni Tondo (in the Uffizi, completed a year before the Deposition).
Source: Galleria Borghese Internet Site
My only problem with this painting is that Raphael managed to make everything look so beautiful, that it is hard to feel the pain and the drama in the middle of all the beauty!
Bronzino - Deposition

Bronzino - Deposition

Deposition (c. 1545)
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon

With Bronzino, the problem of “beauty” is even bigger, as he was a master of making everything look beautiful! You look at the little angels and it is like they are just having a good time!  And why not?  They are kids and have no idea about what is happening down there! And another point: how on Earth can everyone look so beautiful? There is no ordinary face around, all of them are glazed with beauty! Having said all that, the contrast with Christ is stark. Mary seems more puzzled than in grief, while the only grieving person in the composition is Mary Magdalen on the right side. 



Caravaggio - Deposition

Caravaggio - Deposition

Deposition from the Cross (c. 1604)

Pinacoteca Vaticana, Roma, Italia

The Deposition, considered one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces, was commissioned by Girolamo Vittrice for his family chapel in S. Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) in Rome. In 1797 it was included in the group of works transferred to Paris in execution of the Treaty of Tolentino. After its return in 1817 it became part of Pius VII’s Pinacoteca. 
Caravaggio did not really portray the Burial or the Deposition in the traditional way, inasmuch as Christ is not shown at the moment when he is laid in the tomb, but rather when, in the presence of the holy women, he is laid by Nicodemus and John on the Anointing Stone, that is the stone with which the sepulchre will be closed. Around the body of Christ are the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, John, Nicodemus and Mary of Cleophas, who raises her arms and eyes to heaven in a gesture of high dramatic tension.
Caravaggio, who arrived in Rome towards 1592-93, was the protagonist of a real artistic revolution as regards the way of treating subjects and the use of colour and light, and was certainly the most important personage of the “realist” trend of seventeenth century painting.

Source: Vatican Museums Online

With the master of darkness, we are now back to the depiction of the drama! Here we have real people, everyone looks in a different way and angle, the faces are dark, and Death envelopes the composition as a dark cloud.

Crucifixion II

Σάββατο, 4 Απριλίου, 2009

I continue today with the second part of the Crucifixion paintings, from the 19th  to the 20th century.

Paul Gauguin

Yellow Christ (1889)

Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin

Albright-Know Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA

Emil Nolde

Crucifixion (1912) 

Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde

Nolde Stifftung, Seebull

On February 20, 1912, the painter Emil Nolde wrote to his friend and patron Karl Osthaus, director of the Folkwang Museum in Hagen, concerning an upcoming exhibition there, and announced a major new work:

In the last year I have created a piece consisting of nine biblical pictures that belong together.I finished it during the last few weeks. I thought that I would also send this to you forexhibition. The size of the entire piece: 240cm high, 630cm wide.

On February 28, 1912, he wrote to his long-time friend Hans Fehr about the piece, enclosing a thumbnail sketch of it that shows a large central picture of a crucifixion flanked on either side byfour paintings. Nolde identified the subjects of the eight smaller canvases in writing on thesketch: Holy Night and The Twelve-Year-Old Christ (left above), The Three Magi and TheBetrayal of Christ (left below), Women at the Tomb and Ascension (right above), Resurrectionand Doubting Thomas (right below).2 All nine canvases of this work, known collectively as TheLife of Christ, remain together today in the galleries of the Nolde Foundation, near Seebüll,Germany. 

Nolde no doubt recognized that the monumental scheme of The Life of Christ–far larger than any previous work–almost literally hinged on Crucifixion.7 For it he incorporated a symmetrical severity and a solidity of construction well beyond any earlier picture. The three crosses establish the central axis, outer boundaries, and upper edge of the composition. Nolde pushed the figures almost into a single plane very close to the picture’s surface. He reinforced the iconic effect that results with certain aspects of his primitivizing style, mainly angular forms, flat colors, and unworked surfaces….

Of the individual canvases for The Life of Christ, Crucifixion contains the most obvious traces of an interest in Northern Medieval art. Crucifixions from this period frequently include several motifs—all incorporated by Nolde. First, the tortured flesh of Christ, in the form of an emaciated body, prominent wounds, and streams of blood. Grünewald’s Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece is the best known and most extreme example of this type. Second, the followers traditionally stand to the left of the cross and display intense emotions through gesture and physiognomy, often with the Magdalene on her knees and grasping the base of the cross and the Virgin collapsing into the arms of St. John. Third, many contrast the followers on the left with an equally distinct group of executioners and mockers to the right. Nolde even imitated a convention of some Medieval art by enlarging the body of Christ for prominence.

Source: William B. Sieger, Literary Texts and Formal Strategies in Emil Nolde’s Religious Paintings

Georges Roualt 

Crucifixion (early 1920s)

Georges Rouault

Georges Rouault

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Pablo Picasso

Crucifixion (1930)

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Musee Picasso, Paris, France

Picasso in addition to the painting (oil on wood) prepared more than ten drawings with ink as “studies” on crucifixion. The Isenheim Altarpiece of Grunewald gave him inspiration and challenge.  

Marc Chagall

White Crucifixion (1938)

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Art Institute of Chicago

Francis Bacon 

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion  circa 1944

Francis Bacon - Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

Francis Bacon - Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

Tate Gallery, London, UK

When this triptych was first exhibited at the end of the war in 1945, it secured Bacon’s reputation. The title relates these horrific beasts to the saints traditionally portrayed at the foot of the cross in religious painting. Bacon even suggested he had intended to paint a larger crucifixion beneath which these would appear.He later related these figures to the Eumenides – the vengeful furies of Greek myth, associating them within a broader mythological tradition. Typically, Bacon drew on a range of sources for these figures, including a photograph purporting to show the materialisation of ectoplasm and the work of Pablo Picasso.

Source: Tate Gallery’s website

Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950)

Francis Bacon - Fragment of a Crucifixion

Francis Bacon - Fragment of a Crucifixion

Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Major artists create myths around themselves or have  the ability to motivate others to do it for them. The way Francis Bacon’s work has been received is coloured by this. The view that at certain moments the person and the work sometime coincide gained increasing emphasis in Bacon’s career, culminating with the feature fi lm Love is the Devil (1998) by John Maybury. There is hardly any other artist whose world is so much a part of his work, and spicy details about his life are happily quoted by biographers and reviewers. Bacon himself refused to go into the interpretation of his paintings and after 1962 even forbid any interpretive comment in catalogues. His argument was that there was not anything to explain. Fragment of a Crucifi xion and the response to Bacon’s work give cause to think about interpretation, biography and autonomy. Do the paintings exemplify a state of mind, or can they be related to views about identity and the male body? Do they represent a post-war view on the world, in which the automation of human interaction can be heard, or do the themes deprive us of an insight into a painter ‘easy on himself’?

Source: Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John of the Cross: Nuclear Mysticism  (1951)

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

“The title of the painting was said to have been inspired by a drawing made by a Spanish Carmelite friar who was canonised as St John of The Cross in the 16th Century.

It was made after the saint had a vision in which he saw the crucifixion from above.

Dali painted his crucifixion scene set above the rocky harbour of his home village of Port Lligat in Spain. “

Source: BBC

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) (1954)

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Dali commented on his painting:

“Metaphysical, transcendent cubism, it is based entirely on the Treatise on Cubic Form by Juan de Herrera, Philip the 2nd’s architect, builder of the Escorial Palace: it is a treatise inspired by Ars Magna of the Catalonian philosopher and alchemist Raymond Lulle. The cross is formed by an octahedral hypercube. The number nine is identifiable and becomes especially consubstantial with the body of Christ. The extremely noble figure of Gala is the perfect union of the develpment of the hypercubic octahedron on the human level of the cube. She is depicted in front of the Bay of Port Lligat. The most noble beings were painted by Velazques and Zurbaran; I only approach nobility while painting Gala, and noblity can only be insired by the human being.” 

Antonio Saura

Crucifixion (1959)

Antonio Saura

Antonio Saura

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Euskaleria

“Ever since I was a boy I have been obsessed with Velázquez’ Christ in the Prado in Madrid, with his face darkened by the black hair of a Flamenco dancer, with his bullfighter’s feet, with the stillness of a flesh and bone puppet transformed into Adonis. I can even see myself immersed in the hazy museum, holding my father’s hand and looking at the terrible pacific cross, which I remember as something immense”.

The constant presence of the Crucifixion between 1956 and 1996 doesn’t respond to religious belief. It is, in the artist’s own words, a way of looking at the “timeless presence of suffering”.

“Contrary to Velázquez’ Christ, in these works I thought that by giving the image a feeling of tension and protest it was possible to capture a trace of almost blasphemous humour, but there is something else. In the image of the Crucified Christ, I may have reflected my situation of man alone in a threatening universe at which it is possible to shout, although, seen from another angle, I am also interested in the tragedy of a man “not that of a god” absurdly nailed to a cross. An image which can still serve as the tragic symbol of our era”.

Source: Guggenheim Museum’s website



Crucifixion I

Κυριακή, 29 Μαρτίου, 2009

As Easter approaches, I want to share with you some of my favourite depictions of the drama of Christ. I will do it in two parts. In the first part I will present paintings from the 13th to the 18th century. In the second part I will present paintings after the 19th century.  In all paintings, except Cimabue and Giotto, I have inserted comments made by the museums where they are kept. In some instances, I have added also my comments in italics


Crucifixion (1274)

Cimabue Crucifixion

Cimabue Crucifixion

Church of Santa Croce, Firenze

In the same church where Michelangelo is burried, you can find this masterpiece of the mentor of Giotto. The figure of Christ on the Cross has influenced Francis Bacon when he created his own Crucifixion triptych (it will be shown in Part II). It is a very intense picture. The simplicity of the palette brings out the severity of the subject. 


Crucifixion (circa 1305)

Giotto Crucifixion

Giotto Crucifixion

Scrovegni Chapel, Padova

In stark contrast to Cimabue’s intense but minimal composition, this is a busy crucifixion, with a lot of people and angels around. The lack of intensity is its major drawback, although Giotto’s mastery of colours and composition is evident.  

Rogier van der Weyden

 The Crucifixion Triptych (circa 1440)

van der Weyden - Triptych

van der Weyden - Triptych

“The scene presented today as the wing of an altarpiece probably originates from a single panel on which the frame was only painted. At an early stage the work was sawn into three pieces so that the depictions of Mary Magdalene and St. Veronica became side-wings of a triptych. The great artistic innovation of van der Weyden may therefore have carried even greater weight in the original version: for the first time he combines all the participants – the crucifixion group, saints and benefactors – in front of a unified landscape in which the idealised view of Jerusalem appears on the horizon.”

Source: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning (circa 1460)

van der Weyden - Diptych

van der Weyden - Diptych

“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.”

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


The Small Crucifixion, c. 1511/1520


Grunewald Crucifixion

Grunewald Crucifixion

“Matthias Grünewald’s Small Crucifixion is a masterful example of that artist’s ability to translate his deep spiritual faith into pictorial form. Each individual, according to Grünewald, must reexperience within himself not only the boundless joy of Christ’s triumphs but also the searing pains of his Crucifixion.

In order to communicate this mystical belief, Grünewald resorted to a mixture of ghastly realism and coloristic expressiveness. Silhouetted against a greenish-blue sky and illuminated by an undefined light source, Christ’s haggard and emaciated frame sags limply on the cross. The details — the twisted and gnarled feet and hands, the crown of thorns, the agonized look upon Jesus’ face, and the ragged loincloth — bear strident witness to physical suffering and emotional torment. This abject mood is intensified by the anguished expressions and demonstrative gestures of John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary, and the kneeling Mary Magdalene.

Grünewald’s dissonant, eerie colors were also rooted in biblical fact. The murky sky, for instance, corresponds to Saint Luke’s description of “a darkness over all the earth.” Grünewald, who himself witnessed a full eclipse in 1502, has recreated here the dark and rich tonalities associated with such natural phenomena.

Today, only twenty paintings by Grünewald are extant, and The Small Crucifixion is the only one of them in America.”

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

El Greco

Crucifixion (1600)

El Greco Crucifixion

El Greco Crucifixion

“A night view of Calvary with a markedly Eucharistic character. Mary Magdalene, at Christ’s feet, and three angels collecting the blood of the slain Savior, appear framed by the figures of the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist.
Light and color are used to bring dramatic intensity to the chosen subject, generating a night scene with highly contrasted colors. Some figures, such as that of Mary Magdalene, follow Italian models, recalling the artist’s training.

Along with other paintings in the Prado Museum, this was probably painted for the attic of the altarpiece in the church of the Augustine College of María de Aragón in Madrid.”

Source: Museo National del Prado


Crucifixion (1780)

Goya Crucifixion

Goya Crucifixion

“Christ is depicted on the Cross, over a black background, with four nails and a foot platform, in keeping with the tradition of seventeenth-century Spanish painting. Nevertheless, the classic concept of beauty brought to Spain by Mengs and Bayeu is also perceptible. And Goya softens the bloodiest and most dramatic aspects of this subject, bringing out the beauty of the nude body.

Goya presented this work at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in May, 1780, gaining the rank of Academician of Merit with it. The canvas was sent to the church of San Francisco el Grande, whose decoration was sponsored by the King, himself. Thus, the Academy recognized the technical qualities of this painting, as well as the orthodoxy of its image.”

Source: Museo National del Prado

As the first part is closing, it is interesting to note that in this painting it is as if Goya is shaking hands with Cimabue.


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