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Department: Europe
Title:Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John (One of three
Date Label:13th century
Medium:polychromed wood
Dimensions:171.1 cm (67 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts,
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The three wooden sculptures were made by Spanish sculptors, and they are placed together to portray the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the cross.The sculpture of Jesus Christ (in the center) is from the thirteenth century. The two attendant figures represent the Virgin Mary(on the left side) and Saint John(on the right side) and were created at a slightly later date. The sculptors used polychromed wood and with very skillful hands the sculptors have carved into the wood, to bring out the different planes of the body. This can be seen in Christ’s chest, where the the chest is very smooth, but is a very different plane and feel when it reaches the ribs. The sculptures have a very muted, ground colors, coming mostly from the wood. The texture of the sculptures seems soft, and inviting to be touched. One of the most impressive features of the crucifixion group, or Calvario, is its size. The sculptures are nearly life size, but in the exhibition, they are lifted off the ground. The Virgin and Saint John stand off the ground at about four feet, while Christ is elevated by a white cross (added by the museum) at about five feet. This scale and elevation of the ground makes the viewer step back to capture the entire piece. Even though Christ’s arms are extending over the two figures, the piece reads vertically, and we look at all three pieces together, but look up and down when looking at each one individually. 

The piece really conveys that feeling of sadness that the sculptors try to show and capture. This is a very sad and familiar scene in religious communities. By using wood, the sculptors might be tapping into the story of Jesus, who was a carpenter and a simple man. There is a sense of sadness, in this piece, but also relaxation and peace; the sculptures are stopping time and the viewer, too, has to slow down and sort of take in the moment. 

The figures of Virgin Mary and Saint John are in Romanesque tradition. The body of Christ is different, as it follows a French Gothic tradition. Gothic tradition is viewed as a very dramatic style, and the sculptor has created that drama with details like the tilt of Christ's head leaning to the right, the chest and trunk, which individually can be their own abstract pattern, and the carefully modeled limbs that lead to the feet.