|Michele Giambono, Man of Sorrows|
Italian, ca. 1430
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him—
so marred were his features,
beyond that of mortals
his appearance, beyond that of human beings—
So shall he startle many nations,
kings shall stand speechless;
For those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.”
(Isaiah 52:13-15) Excerpt from the First Reading for Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord
Among the many images that evoke the Passion the one that is probably the most shocking to our modern eyes is that of the Man of Sorrows. In fact, even among Catholics it is now little known, having been supplanted long ago by other images, such as the Sacred Heart, or more recently, by the Divine Mercy. I confess that I, myself, had never seen it prior to my second year in graduate school and, at first sight, I found it extremely shocking. Yet, it was once one of the best known and most wide spread of all visual meditations on the Passion.
The Man of Sorrows image has many variations and relationships to other images. Interpretation of these relationships is extraordinarily complex, far too complex to deal with in one article. Consequently, I will limit myself to merely describing the most common and simplest variation.
|Naddo Ceccarelli, Man of Sorrows|
Italian, ca. 1347
Vienna, Liechtenstein Museum
|Meister Francke, Man of Sorows|
German, ca. 1430
|Hans Memling, Virgin with the Man of Sorrows|
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria
(Interestingly, Memling includes in the
background disembodied body parts of the
tormentors of Christ, in addition to the
traditional instruments of the Passion.
As this work is about 30 years later than
Fra Angelico's work at San Marco it is
quite possible that ideas from Angelico's
Mocking of Christ may have made their
way to Northern Europe.)
This is, above all, a devotional image and appeared in every kind of medium imaginable, including painting, sculpture, goldsmith’s work, lapidary.
|Man of Sorrows |
from Tres belles heures de Notre Dame
de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3093, fol. 155r
|Cristoforo Scolari, Man of Sorrows |
Italian, ca. 1500
Dayton, Art Institute
|Man of Sorrows, Triptych pendant reliquary|
German, ca. 1400
Munich, Schatzkammer der Residenz
|Simon Marmion, Virgin Mary and Man of Sorrows Diptych|
Bruges, Groeninge Museum
In a more subtle way, the identification of the Dead Jesus with Isaiah’s Suffering Servant through the image of the Man of Sorrows has influenced the wider culture, beyond Catholicism. One example is found in the music of Georg Friedrich Handel’s “Messiah”. Below is a recording by the great English mezzo-soprano, Janet Baker.
1. Passion in Venice: Crivelli to Tintoretto and Veronese, The Man of Sorrows in Venetian Art, edited by Catherine Puglisi and William Barcham, New York and London, Museum of Biblical Art in association with D. Giles Limited, p. 10. This book is the exhibition catalog for the exhibition “Passion in Venice: Crivelli to Tintoretto and Veronese” at the Museum of Biblical Art, New York from February 11 to June 12, 2011. In addition to the catalog entries for the works in the exhibition, the book includes informative essays on the Man of Sorrows image, primarily in Venice and the Veneto (the area of mainland Italy traditionally controlled by Venice). This is, however, merely a minute slice of the enormous diversity and geographic spread of the image.