By: Louk Vreeswijk

Mar 22 2020

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Category: Europe, Italy

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During Lent, the weeks before Easter, I happily bring out the oratorios by Handel (Messiah), Caldara (Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo) and of course Bach (St. Matthew and St. John Passion) to immerse myself in magnificent music that recollects among other things the life and Passion of Christ.

Does ardent faith play a part when a talented maker of religious art gets inspired and rises to unprecedented heights? We know many masterpieces of music and of the visual arts of which one thinks this must have been the case.

Yet in visual works of religious art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, I am often less moved by the figure of Christ than by his loved ones. In many a crucifixion it is not Christ suffering on the cross that touches me deeply but the grieving women at his feet, his mother Mary, or his disciple (lover?) Magdalene. Maybe this is because Christ is not only Man but also God. The way his suffering is portrayed often follows general conventions, expressing less emotional depth than we feel when entering into the unspeakable sorrow of Mary and Magdalene, who are after all human beings like you and me.

Photos of the week: Mello da Gubbio, Martirio di san Mariano – Crocifissione, c. 1335-1340, distemper on wood, part of the predella of an altarpiece, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy, pictures taken at an exhibition in Gubbio, Italy 2018

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