A Twitter thread by Dr Janina Ramirez.
Who wants a mini Art History lesson on dating crucifixions? I’d usually do an hour, but I’ll try a thread. There are no surviving crucifixions from the earliest stage of Christianity as his criminal death would be like showing a man hanging on gallows. Instead he works miracles.
By the fifth century, as the western Roman Empire has collapsed, the first crucifixion images appear. As chief of gods Jesus can’t be shown as weak or frail. Instead he boldly takes on death and stares out at the viewer triumphing over original sin. His arms and legs are straight
By the 11th century Romanesque art was balancing god-like triumph with human suffering more. This Spanish crucifix shows an older Christ, bearded, thinner. His arms & knees now bend slightly, showing he’s hanging on the cross. There’s more expression in his face but he’s crowned.
With the rise of theologians like Bernard of Clairvaux & the gothic approach to light & space of Suger, great changes happened through the twelfth century. By 1300 crucifixions began to emphasise Christ’s suffering more. The arms hang down, knees bend & one nail pierces the feet.
By the fourteenth century art displays more visceral suffering, perhaps in the wake of the Black Death. Life’s transience is highlighted through transi-tombs and the crucifixion become bloody. Christ is shown in agony & his followers swoon & faint around the cross. He hangs down.
Crucifixion imagery has never stopped developing. The Reformation meant the crucifix was in & out of use. To the present day artists have grappled with how to depict it. These examples by Dali, Morse Brown, Rothenstein & from Fatima all imagine cricifixions in the 20th century.