Christ Crucified (Velázquez)

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Christ Crucified
ArtistDiego Velázquez
Mediumoil on canvas
Dimensions249 cm × 170 cm (98 in × 67 in)
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid

Christ Crucified is a 1632 painting by Diego Velázquez depicting the Crucifixion of Jesus. The work, painted in oil on canvas, measures 249 × 170 cm and is owned by the Museo del Prado.


Christ has both arms drawn a subtle curve, instead of forming a triangle. The loincloth is painted rather small, thus showing the nude body as much as possible.[1] The head shows a narrow halo, as if it came from the figure itself; the face is resting on the chest, showing just enough of his features.[1] The long, straight hair covers a great part of the face, perhaps foreshadowing the death, already inflicted as shown by the wound on the right side. It lacks the characteristic dramatic qualities of Baroque painting.[1] The influence of Classicist painting is shown by the calm posture of the body, the idealized face and the leaning head.[1] On the other hand, the influence of Caravaggism can be seen in the strong chiaroscuro between the background and the body, and in the strong, artificial lightning over the cross.[1] Velazquez's use of light and shadow creates the idea the subject is rising from the darkness, almost as if Christ's body is emanating light.[1] The body anatomically proportioned, supported by two separated open feet, creates an impression of Christ more reposed than dead.[1]

Francisco Pacheco- Christ on the Cross


Velázquez followed the accepted iconography in the 17th century. His master, Francisco Pacheco, a supporter of classicist painting, painted the crucified Christ using the same iconography later adopted by Velázquez: four nails, feet together and supported against a little wooden brace, in a classic contrapposto posture.[1] This became a model and great influence for various artists: Velazquez, Zurbarán and Alonso Cano.[1] Unlike other traditional crucifixion interpretations outside of the Spanish tradition, Velazquez's work represents two parallel feet both punctured by nails.[1] Jesus's feet are traditionally pierced with one nail, one foot over the other.[2]

Pacheco's claim of Christ having four nails instead of three and his independent studies of the event of the crucifixion created great controversy .[1] Pacheco and his colleagues, many of who were Jesuits, developed analysis involving resources from contemporary writers, church fathers, and medieval mystics from the Italian and Spanish orthodoxy, supporting the idea that Jesus was crucified with a nail in each foot. Many argued Pacheco's work and influence may have created a distance from biblical evidence and his personal ideas.[1]


Although the precise date is still unknown, historians believe the work was made after Velázquez's return from Italy, in the period of 1632 through 1638. Due to numerous replications[2] particularly on funeral cards and devotional stamps, it is difficult to find information of the works location. There is evidence of the painting being located in the oratory of the Benedictine convent of San Placido in Madrid.[1] It is likelihood the work was donated by the convent founder, Jerönimo de Villanueva, the prothonotary of Aragon and one of the King Phillip IV's secretaries.[citation needed]

Portrait of King Phillip IV of Spain - Diego Velazquez

Velazquez did not have full experience with religious paintings compared to his traditional works.[1] Due to his employment under King Phillip IV,[3][circular reference] the painter was encouraged to paint more historical, religious and mythological works due to traditional understanding of prestigious paintings.[2] Under King Phillip IV, Velazquez's work depicted portraits of the king, his secretaries, his family, his ministers, his servants, jesters, and dwarves.[1] King Phillip IV described Velazquez working pace, "phlegmatic nature",[1] which referred to him being slow; however he believed Velazquez's work was legendary and introduced the artist to his royal court and inner circle. Velazquez being introduced to this environment, invited him to new opportunities and resources.

Due to the influence of King Phillip IV, Velazquez works became proficient in religious and mythological works. Velázquez made various nude studies he used in later paintings, such as Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan (1630) and Joseph's Tunic (1630). Art critics assert that the nude study for this painting is exceptional and masterly in its fusion of serenity, dignity and nobility. It is a life-size frontal nude, without the support of a narrative scene.

Historical Context[edit]

Cristo (Christ) - Diego Velazquez

Counter-Reformation also referred to as the Catholic Reformation, took place during the period of Catholic resurgence which started because of Protestant Reformation.[4] The Catholic Church of the Counter-Reformation heavily relied on sacred art to exemplify the glory in faith yet the terror for non-believers.[4] The motive of the Reformation was intended to reintroduce old stories and ancient truths to the modern generation through various artists.

Velazquez's religious paintings had great influence on others due his works on the Passion of Jesus.[5] The passion was the time period before the death of Jesus Christ, which includes numerous events and interactions with Jesus, such as the Last Supper, Jesus's arrest, his crucifixion and death, his burial, etc.[5] For the Last Supper, Jesus imposed that bread and wine would symbolize the body and blood of Christ.[6] It is important to recognize that after the Crucifixion of Christ, in remembrance of Jesus, followers would consume bread and wine for a monthly communion, also known as Transubstantiation.[6] With great influence of Transubstantiation, the body of Christ became overemphasized.[7] In Velazquez's painting of Crucifixion of Christ, Christ's severe body was greatly influential to followers of Christ to glorify God.[8] Believers of Christ felt that the painting would evoke their soul for the desire to praise God.[8]


The spirituality and mystery of this painting have inspired much religious writing, notably the poem El Cristo de Velázquez by the Spanish writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Lahuerta, Juan José (2014). "The Crucifixions of Velázquez and Zurbarán". RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (65/66): 259–274. ISSN 0277-1322. JSTOR 24871255.
  2. ^ a b c LAHUERTA, JUAN JOSÉ (2014). "The Crucifixions of Velázquez and Zurbarán". RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (65/66): 259–274. ISSN 0277-1322. JSTOR 24871255.
  3. ^ "King Phillip IV".
  4. ^ a b Lev, Elizabeth (2018-09-20). How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art. Sophia Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-62282-612-4.
  5. ^ a b "Passion of Jesus", Wikipedia, 2023-05-08, retrieved 2023-05-18
  6. ^ a b Green, Jennifer (1993), Green, Jennifer; Trevelyan, Joanna (eds.), "Christianity", Death with Dignity: Volume II, London: Macmillan Education UK, pp. 2–5, doi:10.1007/978-1-349-13197-6_2, ISBN 978-1-349-13197-6, retrieved 2023-05-19
  7. ^ "Sacramento State Single Sign-On". Retrieved 2023-05-20.
  8. ^ a b {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)


  • (in Spanish) Historia general del arte, Tomo XIII, colección Summa Artis, La pintura española del siglo XVII. Author, José Camón Aznar. Editorial Espasa Calpe S.A. Madrid 1977
  • (in Spanish) La pintura en el barroco José Luis Morales y Marín Espasa Calpe S.A. 1998 ISBN 84-239-8627-6
  • (in Spanish) Museo del Prado. Pintura española de los siglos XVI y XVII Enrique Lafuente Ferrari Aguilar S.A. 1964
  • Cirlot, L. (dir.), Museo del Prado II, Col. «Museos del Mundo», Tomo 7, Espasa, 2007.

External links[edit]

  • Velázquez , exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Christ Crucified (see index)