Sacred Sunday: The Art of Easter, Part 1 of 4

It’s the sacred art of Easter, specifically the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Many of these mosaics, frescoes, panels and framed art were photographed while I was an art student working at the Louvre, traveling Europe for my master’s in art, gallery and museum visits in the US & Europe or stopping off while extensively cycling throughout Europe.

I hope you enjoy!


Christ on the Cross between Mary and St John c. 1512 Limewood, 102 x 116 cm Staatliche Museen, Kassel

Keeling in prayer beneath the cross are the tiny figures of the unknown couple who donated this crucifixion panel, which would have hung above the family tomb in a Regensburg church or cloister. At the foot of the cross, where in other such works one finds the skull of Adam, said to have been buried at Golgotha and whose sins Christ atones for by his death, is their coat of arms, with a hexagram. On either side of Christ, who is represented not in an idealised manner but with the signs of his injuries, the landscape stretches away into the far distance.


Crucifixion 1376-79 Fresco, 840 x 280 cm Basilica di Sant’Antonio, Padua

The Veronese painter Altichiero studied Giotto’s frescoes in Padua and borrowing from them developed new forms of pictorial architecture. Around 1380, he and Jacopo Avanzo painted a cycle of frescoes in the Chapel of San Giacomo in the Santo (the church of Sant’Antonio) in Padua. The group compositions of his Crucifixion are those of Giotto’s figures, but the architecture is structured so that it seems to recede ever deeper into the background of the picture. Only a stone’s throw from the chapel, the young Titian was to work in the Scuola del Santo in 1511, where he was deeply impressed by Altichiero’s color scheme and composition.


Crucifixion (detail) 1366-67 Fresco Cappellone degli Spagnoli, Santa Maria Novella, Florenc

The Crucifixion extends over the entire width of the upper wall segment as a multifigure image of Golgotha. The picture shows the central part of the scene.


Crucifixion and Saints 1441-42 Fresco, 550 x 950 cm Convento di San Marco, Florence

The giant fresco occupies the entire wall opposite to the entrance of the Chapter Room. The saints depicted are, from the left: Cosmas and Damian, Lawrence, Mark the Evangelist, John the Baptist, the Virgin and the pious women; to the right of the Cricifixion kneeling Dominic, Jerome, Francis, Bernard, John Gualberto and Peter the Martyr, standing Zanobi (or perhaps Ambrose), Augustin, Benedict, Romuald and Thomas of Aquino. Around the fresco, on the border, are the busts of the Prophets and Sibyls in ten hexagons; in the centre, above the Crucifixion the pelikan, symbol of the redemption. Below, in the lower frieze there are 17 medallions with portraits of the most illustrious members of the Dominican Order.


Crucifixion 1475 Oil on panel 52.5 x 42.5 cm Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

The painting represents Christ Crucified between two Evildoers, with Maria and John the Evangelist.

In the work of the Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina the characteristics of 15th-century Flemish and Italian painting are combined in a very balanced way. Antonello, who lived in Naples from 1445, probably became acquainted with Flemish painting through works that were shipped from Bruges to Naples.

In addition to this Venetian painting influenced Antonello when he stayed in the Lagoon City in 1475. Elements of this synthesis are already present in the Antwerp Crucifixion.

A total of only 12 signed works by Antonello have been preserved. Ten of them are also dated. One of these is the Antwerp Crucifixion. The following text is written in tiny characters on a small piece of parchment on a piece of wood broken off from the crucifix in the left foreground: ‘1475 Antonellus Messaneus me pinxit.’


Crucifixion with Mary and St John the Evangelist 1400-50 Tempera on wood, 151 x 85 cm The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

One side of a panel painted on both sides. The other side represents the Madonna and Child with Saints.


Crucifix c. 1455 Tempera on wood, 55 x 30 cm Museo Correr, Venice

The Mantegnesque phase of Bellini’s art comprises several fundamental works. Included among them is the Crucifixion, formerly in the Venetian church of San Salvador and now at the Museo Correr in Venice, whose chronological placing before or after the Transfiguration in the same museum has been a matter of some uncertainty. Certainly the anguished forms and the meticulous arrangement of the elements are characteristics that appear extremely early in Bellini’s career, and for this reason the period between 1455 and 1460, coinciding with the presence of Mantegna in Venice, seems the most plausible moment for its execution.

The landscape, though vast and expanded, is not yet conceived as a whole, but built up piece by piece according to an intellectual model filtered through the Gothic experiences of Jacopo. The figures are slender and sharply defined, and their grief, sculpted with raw pathos in the half-open mouths and extreme boniness of the bodies, is echoed in the stony contours of the landscape. These features had led some scholars in the 19th century to ascribe the painting to the Ferrarese artist Ercole de’ Roberti.


Resurrection of Christ 1475-79 Oil on panel transferred to canvas, 148 x 128 cm Staatliche Museen, Berlin

This painting originates from the chapel Marino Zorzi in the mortuary church of San Michele di Murano. It was attributed to Cima da Conegliano, then to Previtali, Bartolomeo Veneto and Basaiti. The painting was acquisited by the Berlin Museums in 1903 and after a thorough cleansing Bellini was unambiguously established as the author.

In this painting the artist follows Northern currents in his scrutiny of nature. Mystical yet realistic, his combination of faith and focus gives the painting a singularly convincing quality, its theme of resurrection a comforting one for the painting’s funerary setting.


Crucifixion c. 1480 Panel Parish church, Daroca

This panel belonged to the Retable Santa Engracia the parts of which are now divided among various collections.


Resurrection 1450-60 Tempera on canvas, 89 x 72,5 cm Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

The painting is on of the panels of the Crucifixion Altarpiece, together with the London Entombment. The central panel was probably the Crucifixion in Brussels.


Crucifix with Mary, Mary Magdalen and St John the Evangelist 1519 Oil on wood, 179 x 166 cm Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The painting is the central panel of the Calvary Triptych, the side wings representing St Sigismund and St George, respectively.



5 thoughts on “Sacred Sunday: The Art of Easter, Part 1 of 4

    • Thank you very much! Sacred Sunday is a labor of love because of the work involved with each new art anthology. What is even more astounding is the work of these artisans. Photos never do it justice! I’m so glad you enjoyed part 1!

  1. Reblogged this on If it happened yesterday, it's History and commented:
    This fantastic new series on ‘The Art of Easter’ is a timely reminder for those who celebrate Easter that its more than just chocolate eggs. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is essentially the ‘nuts and bolts’ of Christianity. Part 1 of this series makes for a great resource for those interested in art/ history. Well thought out with some great photographs hand picked by Crash Course. Enjoy !

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