Descent from the Cross

In Rubens’ Descent from the Cross the element that makes the oil on canvas baroque in nature is that of the attention to detail. Rubens’ was contrary in his painting, which was a personal part of his artistry and not defined by the Baroque art period. His bodies in his paintings, though in action or even in repose were depicted although with muscles tone, the muscles seemed flaccid, as is the case in the above mentioned painting. The wounds of Christ are Baroque in their depiction because it is the opposite of what previous artistic movements has focused upon.

There is the revelation of power in the gathering disciples and in the color palate being manipulated in the painting the subtle tones and the attention to chiaroscuro is what gives the painting a very Rubenesque feel. The viewer’s attention again is draw towards the bodies; albeit muscular, they are not showing signs of body fat, they are perfected in their grief, and in the area of opposites, this is what Rubens wanted to capture; the perfect body juxtaposed with very human emotions; the god body paired with humanity.

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In exact contrast to Rubens depiction of Christ’s flaccid yet toned body, Velazquez gives the viewer a Christ who hangs somber on the cross. His body is in classic Greek contrapposto; his body is aligned in an S-curve. The starkness of the painting; the black background, and the striking whiteness of Christ’s body adds to the power of the moment; the messiah on the cross. Rubens’ painting was chaotic with colors, but Velazquez shows restraint in this painting by allowing the moment, and the feeling transcend the painting, by toning down the colors. As opposed to Rubens’ Christ, Velazquez introduces the viewer to the bodies position on canvas.
Rubens engaged other participants with Christs’ movement off the cross. Rubens has a similar piece which is depicting Christ being hoisted upon the cross. Velazquez on the other hand shows Christ solitary in the painting; he endures by himself, which is in itself a great contrast to the jumble of bodies prevalent in Rubens piece. Rubens also denoted a lot of muscle mass to Christ while Velazquez depicts his Christ more like a younger, realistic man; Velazquez makes his Christ human with human qualities and while Rubens portrays Christ bleeding the same human sentiment is not shown.
Velazquez shows Christ himself grieving on the cross instead of Rubens’ painting where everyone but Christ is grieving and this is what makes Velazquez’s Christ human. Titian portrays Magdalene in somber tones, that are prevalent throughout the High Renaissance. The tones and colors used create a mood of reserved trepidation and the facial expression used is that of inquiry. This inquisitiveness is subtle in Titian’s art, but in certain facial expressions and through the use of color, the look of the characters becomes sometimes inquisitive, royal, or even pensive. The dark yet vibrant colors employed by Titian exhibit a dreamlike state.
The bodies contrapositions to one another serve to pair them, or in other Titian art, the sole character has body movements that puzzle together. What is typical in a Titian painting and Christ Appearing to the Magdalene is not exception, is the muted colors. The Rubens’ painting The Raising of the Cross is similar in fashion to Titian’s portrayal. Both use excellent color combinations to enhance the shadows in the paintings. The highlights on Christ’s body in Rubens’ painting is simply astonishing. The rest of the figures are clad in shadow, especially their faces.
The curious counterpoint to this technique is that Titian uses shadow just as eloquently but with different results. Rubens’ shadows implore the viewer to judge the paintings, the scan the highlighted figure and question why the other figures are caste in shadow. Titian’s painting also begs the question of the shadows but his point is more clearly made; shadow is consistent with grief. If the viewer takes another glance of Rubens’ painting they will see that the shadowy figures’ faces are looking away from Christ in shame while one stares straight at him with wide-struck eyes as if not only in disbelief but in fear.
Rubens was unique in incorporating foreground activity in his paintings. In The Raising of the Cross, there a dog in the foreground interested in the human activity (also, dogs are synonymous with loyalty; albeit, Rubens wanted to incorporate that idea with Christ). Rubens liked to have the human body in action in a specific setting, as has been the case for the previously analyzed Rubens painting. Rubens’ painting had an Italian influence with the male body. Just as Michelangelo depicted the male body in supreme example of humanity based after the Greek forms, so did Rubens want Christ to resemble those same perfected bodies.
Titian’s painting does not do this, but instead, like Velazquez focuses on Christ’s humanity. Rubens had elements of other artists involved with his paintings such as the Caravaggio technique with light, making Christ the holder and light attraction in the paintings, highlighting his person and shadowing the rest. Also, the painting is a hubbub of activity which is reminiscent of Tintoretto’s busy canvases. The body’s of Rubens’ artwork seem to be bursting from the canvas, not only because of their muscle mass but the activity they are accomplishing and the fact that Rubens did not allow the edge of the canvas to dictate the end of action.
One man’s body is cut off, lost to the edge of the canvas just as on the other side another man is constructed in similar fashion. This is not seen with Titian, even though he takes the body in asymmetric alignment with other points on the canvas. Rubens focuses his bodies in a diagonal axis in order to distribute action throughout the canvas. This is another point where Titian is different; his action does not give way for diagonals. Works Cited Sporre, Dennis. (2008). The Creative Impulse: An Introduction to the Arts. 8th edition. Prentice Hall.

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