Anonymous catalan artist
Late 12th century
Polychrome wood, 130.5 x 107 x 14.7 cm
Donated by the Banco de Bilbao in 1961
This figure of Christ is a clear exponent of Catalan Romanesque sculpture and reveals the solemn and conceptual nature of mediaeval art. An extremely frequent motif in the Catalan Pyrenees throughout the twelfth century, Jesus Christ was usually portrayed either as the Dead Christ Mourned or as Christ in Majesty (Maiestas Domini), i.e., Jesus alive and triumphant on the cross as we see here. This last type, derived from Byzantine tradition, is characterised by the rigidity and the frontal view of the figures, depicted with large, wide-open eyes and feet nailed separately.
This work, of an exceptional quality and in a good state of preservation, presents Christ without a crown, dressed in a long Syrian robe or colobium decorated with imperial eagles. The schematic treatment of the figure, its rigid and majestic attitude and its face, that reveals no signs of suffering, endeavour to convey its sovereignty and magnificence.
The cross, polychrome on both sides, is another symbol of royalty and therefore a throne rather than an instrument of torture. Above the head of Christ we read the inscription IHS XPS REX ON, an abbreviation of “Iesus Christus Rex Iudeorum” (Jesus Christ King of the Jews), which is flat and widens out at the ends. The upper area contains personified representations of the Sun and the Moon that refer to the eclipse that took place upon Jesus’ death; the Virgin Mary stands to the right and St John to the left. The lower area presents Adam emerging from the sepulchre as a symbol of man’s redemption by Jesus. These figures represent a step forward towards naturalism and announce a new style: Gothic. [A.S.L.]
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