Cross with Virgin, Christ and Saints; verso Symbols of the Passion
Oil on panel
18 1/8 x 11 7/8 inches
(46 x 30 cm)
Set within a wooden traveling box
Private Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This small, stunning work depicts Christ Crucified, surrounded by God the Father, the Holy Ghost, the Virgin and attendant Saints. The Holy Trinity is represented in the middle of the cross-section, the three figures forming the central scene of the painting. Above the crucified Christ, God the Father sits enthroned in Heaven; crowned with the triple tiara, he holds an orb signifying the world in his left hand, his right hand raised in blessing. Directly below God and above the head of Christ, the Holy Ghost is symbolized as a white dove, divine light emanating from it in bright golden rays. To the right of Christ, Mary Magdalene, with long flowing hair and clad in a red robe, is shown in prayer, while at the left St. John the Evangelist appears, dutifully praying. Below the image of Christ is a half-length depiction of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven, her gold crown of similar design to the celebrated emerald-studded Crown of the Andes recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, She wears white with a gold cape and appears behind a thin band of clouds. Below her, on an affixed panel is the figure of Joseph, his flowering staff held within his praying arms.
The verso of the cross is inlaid with a marquetry design depictingthe symbols of the Passion of Christ. Some of the instruments shown include the Crown of Thorns at the top, the ladder entwined with the hammer, nails and rope used to bind Christ to the Cross, the spear which pierced his ribs, the sponge filled with vinegar, and the cock crowing at the dawn.
An elegant devotional object, this traveling cross blends the flamboyant use of colour, gold and intricate detailing from the primitive arts of the Spanish colonies with the naturalism and modelling brought over by the Renaissance masters who travelled to the new world to spread the Christian faith and left an indelible impact on the artisans they encountered. The raised gilt rays of the aureoles and gold decoration of the costumes are rendered in a refined technique reminiscent of the estofado treatments found in polychrome sculpture in the region.