Timeless Artworks Of Pain And Anguish That Glorify Torture

Timeless Artworks Of Pain And Anguish That Glorify Torture

By: Rodrigo Ayala -

The story of the crucifixion of Christ has been told countless times throughout the centuries, and not just by religious believers or priests. Many artists, creatives, and filmmakers have produced their own interpretations of this event. The crucifixion has never ceased to fascinate as well as disturb us due to its mysterious and woeful quality. 

The crucifixion of Jesus is one of the most gruesome of tortures and painful deaths that the world has ever learned about. He was ruthlessly whipped by Roman soldiers, mocked, and ultimately pierced with a spear. No wonder his redemptive death became the foundations of Christianity.

Artists across all centuries have reimagined the scene of the crucifixion over and over again for one main reason: trying to unravel and experience what would it be like to endure all that suffering. Below you'll find a series of the most emblematic crucifixion paintings. Even though they depict the same event, it is reconstructed through different perspectives that range from the most classical to the most bizarre, and from the most tangible to the most ethereal. The great mystery surrounding the crucifixion unlocks many possibilities.
Crocifissione (1515) by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo

paintings jesus crucified gerolamo savoldo
In this painting, Jesus is portrayed in the company of thieves Gestas and Dimas, who had also been condemned for their crimes. During their agony, Dimas, also known as the "penitent thief," says: "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

La crucifixión (1597 - 1600) by El Greco (Domenikos Teotokopoulos)

paintings jesus crucified el greco
El Greco's vision of this scene was fraught with thick clouds in a dark atmosphere, which emphasizes the dramatic element and spirituality of the characters.

Christ Crucified (1780) by Francisco de Goya

paintings jesus crucified goya
Spanish painter Francisco de Goya reimagined Jesus in an agonizing state. Surprisingly, he did not paint any wounds, as opposed to other interpretations.It is a very clean and crisp imagining of a brutal form of torture. 

The Yellow Christ (1889) by Paul Gauguin

paintings jesus crucified gauguin
Gauguin broke with all traditional schemes painting the Messiah in a field in France. In this case, three peasants witness his agony. Jesus' yellowish skin is a reflection of his surroundings. This is one of the key works inside the symbolism art movement.


White Crucifixion (1938) by Marc Chagall

paintings jesus crucified chagall
This is one of Pope Francis' favorite paintings. The background has many Jewish connotations which emphasizes his belonging to the Jewish community. He is covered by a black and white Tallit, a shawl used during prayer. On the right side we can distinguish a German synagogue on fire, and on the left side Jews being persecuted during the Russian Civil War (1917-1923).

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) (1954) by Salvador Dalí

paintings jesus crucified dali
This Spanish surrealist genius represented the crucifixion in oneiric and ethereal surroundings, endowing it with a style of his own. 

Trans-fixed (1974) by Chris Burden

paintings jesus crucified burden
Chris Burden is an American body artist who has produced some of the most shocking works in the history of the twentieth century. For this performance, Burden's hands were nailed to the hood of a Volkswagen. During the exhibition of his work, the engine was revved at full throttle to represent the sound of screaming in pain. In the artist's eyes, the crucifixion had become a commonplace image for society. Through an everyday object, he intended to take the audience out of their comfort zone and make them realize many people still had to endure excruciating pain centuries later, but their suffering was dismissed or ignored.


Rhythm 5 (1974) by Marina Abramovic 

paintings jesus crucified abramovic
Serbian-American performance artist, Marina Abramovic, thinks that performance is an art that goes beyond awareness. Her style stands out for creating performances in which she sleeps or become drugged into unconsciousness to examine this particular aspect of life. In Rhythm 5, she created a star with wood shavings covered in gasoline and lit the wood on fire. She lay down within the burning star, a symbol of the occult and of Communism in Yugoslavia. When audience members realized her clothes were on fire and she had lost consciousness due to the lack of oxygen, they pulled her out and ended the performance. Her pose and endurance reminds us of the crucifixion and how the human body is taken to the limits when being tortured.

Piss Christ (1985) by Andrés Serrano

paintings jesus crucified serrano
Photographer Andrés Serrano took a photo of a plastic crucifix in a jar filled with the artist's urine. This was highly controversial, as the audience and religious leaders considered it a blasphemous act. However, the true intention of the artist was to criticize the way the image of Christ's suffering has been turned into a merchandise and traded in exchange for profits.
Sources: Quo, Religión en libertad

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Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia