Salvador Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross

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Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross
By Kenny Wordsmith

St John of the Cross

The 16th century Spanish mystic St John of the Cross had a vision that he had translated onto paper. He had drawn the crucifxion from an unusual angle and when Salvador Dali saw this drawing, he was inspired. The Christ of St. John of the Cross is the result.

The Point of View

We have seen many pictures of the crucifixion but never one from this point of view, have we? Well, the regulars are from the POV of the worshipper, but Dali’s is unique. He has rendered his crucifixion from the point of view of God!

It’s like God looking at His Son, after the mission is accomplished. This POV serves another purpose, too. Given that it is God’s view, we see Jesus as the bridge between God and the mortal world, represented by that seascape below. This painting is surreal because Dali has mixed two perspective angles. The seacscape is in our eyelevel, instead of following the angle of the cross and showing a bird’s eye-view of Golgotha.

The Geometry and its significance

This painting, viewed from afar, will take the shape of an hourglass, which could stand for time: an inverted triangle for the crufix, and an upright one caused by the lighting below. Kind of balances the composition.

The Christ and the cross forms the triangle of the Holy Trinity, with Christ’s head a circle in the centre of the triangle, extending to mean that He or His act is the centre and meaning of everything in the universe; He is all that you need to realise. The arrow points to earth, meaning that this is God’s gift to mankind.

                                        John saw it from Heaven's point of view.
                            [b]In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.


Note On The Drawing Of CHRIST On The Cross

One day during the years when Fray John of the Cross was chaplain at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, probably between 1574 and 1577, he was praying in a loft overlooking the sanctuary. Suddenly he received a vision. Taking a pen he sketched on a small piece of paper what he had beheld.

The sketch is of Christ crucified, hanging in space, turned toward his people, and seen from a new perspective. The cross is erect. The body, lifeless and contorted, with the head bent over, hangs forward so that the arms are held only by the nails. Christ is seen from above, from the view of the Father. He is more worm than man, weighed down by the sins of human beings, leaning toward the world for which he died.

John, who was to write so many cautions against visions and images, later gave the pen sketch to one of his devout penitents at the Incarnation, Ana Maria de Jesus. She guarded it until the time of her death in 1618, when she gave it to Maria Pinel who was later to become prioress. In 1641, at the time of Madre Maria’s death, the drawing was placed in a small monstrance, elliptical in shape, where it was conserved until 1968. It was then sent for study and restoration to the Central Institute in Madrid for the conservation and restoration of works of art. Now restored and provided with a new reliquary, it is once more available for all to see at the Incarnation in Avila.