Friday, May 18, 2007

Crucifixion Scene: Raphael

This week's crucifixion scene is by Sanzio Raffaello, better known as Raphael. This beautiful painting dates to 1502-3, when Raphael was barely twenty years old. Amazing!

You can see here Jesus on the cross, with the Mary Magdalene and Saint Jerome kneeling at the foot of the cross, together with the Virgin Mary and the apostle John standing behind them. Saint Jerome is included anachronistically; it is not unusual to see later saints, as well as patrons of art, depicted amidst the followers of Jesus attending the crucifixion.

The particular feature that I wanted to emphasize in writing about this painting is the role played by the angels here. You can see two angels, beautifully depicted hovering in the air to the right and to the left of Jesus on the cross (it almost looks as if they are standing on the clouds). As they hover there, one angel gazing upwards and the other angel gazing downards, they hold up chalices to catch the blood from Jesus's wounded hands and also from the wound in his side.

Blood is often an important element in crucifixion scenes, and in this style of depiction, that blood is being caught in a chalice, anticipating the sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread and the wine as the body and the blood of Christ.

The "most precious blood" has a prominent place in the Laudes Divinae, or "Divine Praises," as you can see in the opening lines:
Benedictus Deus. Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius. Benedictus Iesus Christus, verus Deus et verus homo. Benedictum Nomen Iesu. Benedictum Cor eius sacratissimum. Benedictus Sanguis eius pretiosissimus. Benedictus Iesus in sanctissimo altaris Sacramento. [...]

Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name. Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Blessed be the name of Jesus. Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart. Blessed be His Most Precious Blood. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. [...]
There is also a Litany of the Most Precious Blood. In this litany, the blood of Christ is invoked again and again. Here is an excerpt:
Sanguis Christi, in agonia decurrens in terram, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, in flagellatione profluens, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, in coronatione spinarum emanans, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, in Cruce effusus, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, pretium nostrae salutis, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, sine quo non fit remissio, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, in Eucharistia potus et lavacrum animarum, salva nos.
Sanguis Christi, flumen misericordiae, salva nos.


Blood of Christ, running down upon the earth in agony, save us.
Blood of Christ, pouring forth in the scourging, save us.
Blood of Christ, dripping down in the crowning with thorns, save us.
Blood of Christ, poured out on the cross, save us.
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation, save us.
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness, save us.
Blood of Christ, in the Eucharist drink and refreshment of souls, save us.
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy, save us.
Although the Litany in this form is modern (20th century), you can see that the reverence for the blood of Christ expressed here resonates with the scene depicted here by Raphael:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, this helped me out with an art history assignment

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