Picturing Christ’s Passion: From the Catacombs to Mel Gibson and Beyond
This seminar offers an historical examination of Crucifixion iconography, primarily in the visual arts, but also including the dramatic arts such as medieval Passion plays and modern films. The seminar will begin with a study of the Roman practice of crucifixion and biblical accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus. It will proceed to a critical examination of selected Crucifixion images from the Early Christian period up until the present day, demonstrating how the image of the Crucifixion has varied, utilizing symbols or allegory, while reflecting the prevailing climate of religious thought, contemporary political issues or personal struggles. The issue of anti-Semitism in Crucifixion imagery will be examined in some depth. Some of the works that will be considered include Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece (1515), Salvador Dali’s 1954 Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus), and Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion (1938). The seminar will conclude with a consideration of recent controversial works, ranging from the Piss Christ, a 1989 photograph by Andres Serrano, to The Passion of the Christ, a 2003 film directed by Mel Gibson, to Madonna’s use of crucifixion imagery in her 2006 concert tour, as well as to My Sweet Lord, a 2007 sculpture in chocolate by Cosimo Cavallaro. Images in these works of art may challenge personal values, beliefs, and aesthetics, thereby providing an opportunity to examine how individual responses to these works relate to the way one chooses to live out one’s passions and commitments in the world.
Trip to Maryhill Museum of Art
Course taught by
Ann M. Nicgorski