Crucifixion, Masaccio – description

Description of the picture:

Crucifixion – Masaccio. 1426. Wood species of poplar, tempera. 83 x 63 cm.
This part of the famous Leaning Polyptych seems less innovative compared to other similar works by the master. If the effect of the approaching Renaissance is clearly felt on other composite pieces of the polyptych, then Gothic still reigns on it. She found her expression in the “flat” traditional background of gold color, the classical interpretation and placement of the characters, and in the depiction of the figure of Jesus Christ.

But Masaccio would have betrayed himself if there had not been a single trace of his innovative nature in the picture.

The first thing you can see is the ground under the feet of the characters. This is not just a plane, but an obvious slope that sends us to the place where the depicted actions took place – to Mount Calvary in the holy city of Jerusalem.

The second is drapery on the figures. They reflected the artist’s ability to convey the volume of the body, which is completely hidden by the fabric. The folds are not just impressive, they are monumental.

The third is character poses. Upset John the Baptist – the spiritual father of Christ, the suffering Virgin Mary, breaking hands in inescapable grief – these figures impress with the realism of the transmitted emotions. It is interesting that the sympathetic, painful look of the Virgin Mary is not directed at her own son dying in the throes of torment, but at Mary Magdalene, suffering from impotent grief.

The figure of the crucified Christ himself in this regard loses a little, because he is deprived of special expressiveness, and there are problems with the proportions of the body. Some researchers believe that the master tried to portray the body of the crucified in a difficult position, from a lower point, but could not cope. This may partially explain some of the imperfections in the body of the image.

But the brightest and most spectacular part of the picture is the figure of Mary Magdalene. Firstly, her position is striking. She is depicted from the back, leaning at the feet of the Savior crucified on the cross, in a pose expressing the utmost degree of grief and despair. Her thin, graceful arms stretched upwards, a kneeling figure and golden long hair scattered on her back express her pain incredibly expressively.

In fact, it is Magdalene here that is the real center of the canvas, this is emphasized by the brightest color spot – a fiery cloak covering her entire body. So, at first glance, the absolutely medieval-style image turns out to be much closer to the Renaissance than it might seem when the picture was not carefully considered."

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