Click here to view image
Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp, 1599 - London, 1641)
Oil on canvas, 124 x 93 cm
King’s bedroom, south wall (inv. no. 947)
This work of tragic grandeur depicts Christ on the cross against a livid sky, emphasising the desolate solitude of the ordeal of his execution and death. A cold light strikes his nude body and the ample cloth wrapped elaborately around his waist, twisting as if blown by the wind. He is still alive, his suffering, blood-streaked face turned to the sky.
Blood also pours from the wounds at his wrists and feet. Light flares around his head, crowned with thorns. In the sky can be seen the solar eclipse described by Luke in his Gospel.
The barren, rocky landscape around the cross, disappearing into the darkness of the background, expresses the dramatic dimension where the sorrowful emotion of Christ echoes.
The painting was purchased by Carlo Felice in 1821. Its attribution to the Flemish artist has never been doubted; on the contrary, some critics believe it to be the only surviving authentic crucifixion of Van Dyck’s Italian period.