Peter Paul Rubens


Blood is either absent or decorously minimized in those images of Jesus’ Passion with which we are best familiar. The death of Jesus is only part of the Christ story; the momentous, history-shattering disclosure comes later. Accordingly, traditional Passion imagery inclines toward a reflective distance from the physical realities of a Roman scourging and crucifixion. In the earliest crucifixes, the corpus is dressed in an ecclesiastical tunic and its outstretched arms do not bend with the weight of the body. Straight and firm as they are, the outstretched arms suggests either a welcoming embrace or triumphal acclaim—the exuberant gesture of a victory lap. Continue Reading
Palm Sunday, Then & Now

PALM SUNDAY COMMEMORATES JESUS’ ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM and marks the beginning of Passion Week. It observes the triumphal prelude—so misleading—to bloody days ahead, a time of betrayal, torture, and death. While portrayals of crucifixions continued well into the 20th century, Palm Sunday has largely been ignored by all but a few contemporary artists. Jacob Lawrence is one of the few. He framed the gospel story in terms of a black pastor greeting his flock, with particular tenderness toward the children: // // Romare Beardon, too, phrased the event in terms of the black community. Continue Reading