The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

Crucifixion Diptych

Rogier van der Weyden, Netherlandish (active Tournai and Brussels) - The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning - Google Art Project

The “Crucifixion Diptych” is a diptych from approximately 1460 and is attributed by art historians to Rogier van der Weyden. The two panels are noted for their technical skill, their austere impact and for possessing a directness unusual for the art of the time in the Netherlands.

The background to the panels is unknown and there are many unanswered questions about this “Old Master Painting”. The extreme starkness of this painting points to its creation as a devotional work, possibly for a monastery. Some art historians have mentioned that the work seems unbalanced and lacking in symmetry, which might indicate a missing panel.

The figures are almost two-thirds life size. The right panel depicts a Crucifixion scene. Christ’s blood is visible and is amplified by the red cloth draped behind him. The body hangs from the arms, forming a Y-shaped figure. The skull and bone at the foot of the Cross are symbolic of the first man, Adam.

Rogier van der Weyden - Crucifixion Diptych (detail of the right panel) - WGA25680

Crucifixion scene on the right panel

The left panel shows the Virgin Mary supported by Saint John. Both are dressed in sculptured folded robes and also presented before a draped red cloth. The wall gives the effect of pushing the figures into the foreground. The dark sky references the scripture:

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” Matthew 27:45

Rogier van der Weyden - Crucifixion Diptych (detail of the left panel) - WGA25678

Detail of the Mary and St. John panel.

Religious Paintings like this one evoked messages that have resonate for the past to our time:

“Our lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf of springtime.” — Martin Luther

“I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.” — C.S. Lewis

 

 

“The comeback is always stronger than the setback.” — Unknown

“A man who was completely innocent offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Rogier van der Weyden surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. He was successful and internationally famous in his lifetime. My favourites include:

  • Calvary or Crucifixion, 1457–1464, at the El Escorial, Madrid
  • St. Ivo, c. 1450 at the National Gallery, London
  • Triptych: The Crucifixion, 1443 – 1445 at the Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John, 1460 at the Escorial Palace, Madrid.
  • The Crucifixion, c. 1425–30, at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
  • Triptych of the Seven Sacraments, c. 1440–45, at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

~~~

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                         Crucifixion Diptych
  • Artist:                       Rogier van der Weyden
  • Year:                         c. 1460
  • Medium:                  Oil on oak panels
  • Dimensions             Left panel: 180.3 × 93.8 cm (71.0 × 36.9 in); right panel: 180.3 × 92.6 cm (71.0 × 36.5 in)
  • Museum:                 Philadelphia Museum of Art

Artist Essential Facts:

  • Name:             Rogier van der Weyden or Roger de la Pasture
  • Born:               1399 – Tournai, Belgium
  • Died:               1464 – Brussels, Belgium
  • Nationality:   Netherlands
  • Famous Works:
    • Calvary or Crucifixion, 1457–1464, at the El Escorial, Madrid
    • St. Ivo, c. 1450 at the National Gallery, London
    • Triptych: The Crucifixion, 1443 – 1445 at the Kunsthistorisches Museum
    • Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John, 1460 at the Escorial Palace, Madrid.
    • The Crucifixion, c. 1425–30, at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
    • Triptych of the Seven Sacraments, c. 1440–45, at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

~~~

“Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?” Martin Luther

~~~

_________________________________________________________________

Photo Credit: 1) By Rogier van der Weyden, Netherlandish (active Tournai and Brussels), 1399/1400 – 1464 (1399 – 1464) – Artist/Maker (Netherlandish (active Tournai and Brussels)) Born in Tournai, Belgium. Dead in Brussels, Belgium. Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons