The Crucifixion

WAG 3042


This picture evokes a sense of sorrow. Weeping figures surround Jesus on the cross, including the flying angels and the Virgin Mary on the left. The distinctive lines, especially on Jesus's body, show the influence of Byzantine art. This was art from the Eastern Roman Empire, an are now part of Turkey. The soldiers on the right have had their eyes deliberately scatched out at some point in the painting's history. As a child, Christ abandoned his parents during a visit to the Temple in Jerusalem and stayed behind to teach among the scholars there. His mother's words on finding him again are written in Latin on the book she holds: 'Son, why have you dealt with us like this?' The picture is signed and dated in Latin along the bottom edge of the frame: 'Simone of Siena painted me in the year of Our Lord 1342'. Simone was among the greatest artists of 14th-century Italy. This work, however, was painted in Avignon in France, where the papal court was in exile from Rome. This lavish picture was presumably commissioned for private devotion by a high ranking patron, possibly the pope himself. The jewel-like colours, the use of richly patterned gold and the graceful lines of the figures are characteristic of the Gothic art of France as well as Italy. It is typical of Simone that these decorative qualities do not detract from the solemn emotional drama of the scene which is conveyed through gesture, pose and facial expression. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.