Critique of The Raising of the Cross

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The Raising of the Cross is one in a series of paintings based on the crucifixion of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens. This piece was painted between 1609 and 1610 with oil on canvas in life size with the centerpiece of the triptych measuring 15’2” by 11’2”. It is now displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium (Dunton, 164). Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist that painted in Baroque style, his paintings were mostly of religious and mythical origin and his skill in such has been highly regarded in his lifetime and since. ( Born June 28, 1577, Rubens development as a painter, apparently, started early. After his father’s death and his family moving to Antwerp he decided he wished to be a painter and “In 1598, at the age of 21, he was accorded the rank of master painter of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke” (CSU Eastbay article).

Looking across the entire triptych certain visual elements can be seen. Lighting is carefully used to highlight many important details in the painting; the dramatic facial expressions of many of the people in this scene are clearly lighted and defined to illustrate the emotions felt by the witnesses. In the left panel of The Raising of the Cross, among the mourners appear to be St. John, another man that seems to be consoling St. John, Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist), St. Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Mary Magdalene ( One of the mourners is actually looking directly at the viewer with a very distraught expression on her face. The mourner that I suspect is St. John in the back appears to be almost nauseous and his face is surrounded by darkness and is subordinate and his face is being emphasized. Also, the rocky background is subordin...

... middle of paper ... parallel to the implied line shown by the stick in the soldier’s hand.

The Raising of the Cross is an amazing piece of art and the depth of meaning contained in it is, likely, beyond my grasp. There appear to be many symbolisms in this painting and I have surely overlooked some. The style of this painting is clearly inspired by the Baroque masters of Rubens day and Ruben took the style to a new level that the world had not seen at that time. The other pieces in the series of Ruben’s paintings based around the crucifixion of Christ help to give this painting clarity and to give hints to the figures in the paintings.

Works Cited
Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 164.

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