Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week with Giotto – Good Friday, Mid-Morning, Via Crucis

Giotto, Carrying the Cross
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Scrovegni/Arena Chapel

“And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. “ (Matthew 27:31)

“A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him."
(Luke 23:27)

This painting is the most dynamic of all the pictures we have seen since Palm Sunday. Movement is dramatically conveyed by the placing of the figures. Jesus is seen slightly to the right of center. One of the two figures leading the procession appears to have partially walked “out of the picture”.
Detail.  Leading soldiers

This movement “out of the picture” implies a conceptual revolution. It implies that what we are seeing is a slice of an independently existing reality, which we are observing through a window. This concept shows how radical and advanced Giotto’s thinking was and would be the driving force of the development of art throughout the Renaissance, culminating in such grand illusions as “The School of Athens” by Raphael two hundred years later.

In addition to the dynamic interpretation of the scene, emotion is also evident. Jesus is prodded by one of the guards. And Mary stands, in an agony of motherly grief, at the far left. She appears to be restrained by another person, though it may just possibly be an action of comfort instead.
Detail.  Mary

The painting of these figures is, in the main, more assured than the painting in the “Christ Before Caiaphas” and “Mocking of Christ” and may well be by Giotto himself. However, the head of Christ seems oddly out of proportion to his body. This is especially obvious in comparison with the heads of the other figures in the scene.  This may be an indication of the hand of an assistant or the work of a restorer during the intervening centuries.

© M. Duffy, 2011