Liturgical Design > Project: Our Lady of Fatima Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco, CA

painting the Crucifixion in my studio
painting the Crucifixion in my studio

Pigment and acrylic binder on gessoed canvas
82" x100" (2021)
The Crucifixion is one of the most important images in all Christian art, here depicted with all the attendant symbolism that will then carry through the sacred art in the following ages. The Incarnation was brought about so that the eternal Word could become capable to be put to death upon a cross. Christ declares "For this purpose, for this cause, I have come unto this hour" (John 12: 27).
The Cross then becomes the ultimate expression of the Christian mystery: the victory by way of defeat, glory by humiliation, eternal life by the way of death, ascending to kingship by dying as a slave and outcast.
The body of Christ is slack, indicating that He has died. His muscles are overly emphasized, especially the chest. Under His feet is a support (suppedaneum) used in crucifixion, typically depicted
at an angle to symbolize the justification and damnation of the good and bad thieves. To his left the saintly, mourning women gather (the myrophores), including Christ's mother Mary with her hand raised in sorrowful grief. One of the women has her hands hidden in her maphorion veil.
To Christ's right is a sorrowful young Saint John, stricken with terror at the death of the Master he so loved. The Centurion raises his hand in respect and admiration towards Jesus, depicted here as in the Dark Church fresco with a halo (according to tradition he was later martyred in Cappadocia.) The sun and the moon are darkened, representing the visible world of day and night terrified by the death of the Creator. The soldier traditionally named Longinus is holding the spear that pierced the side of Christ (John 19: 34). Blood and water, symbolizing baptism and Eucharist, gush forth out of His wound, so that the skull of Adam may be baptized and redeemed. Tradition holds that the skull was buried in a cave below the cross under Golgotha and exposed in an earthquake that happened at the time of the crucifixion. The scene is depicted against the open sky symbolizing the cosmic significance of the event, which St. Athanasius stated purified the airs", freeing the whole universe of demonic domination.