The White Crucifixion and Pope Francis?
The 1938 painting White Crucifixion represents a critical turning point for the artist Marc Chagall: it was the first of an important series of compositions that feature the image of Christ as a Jewish martyr and dramatically call attention to the persecution and suffering of European Jews in the 1930s.
The paintings shows the suffering of Jews and Jesus. Violent conflicts are depicted such as the setting on fire of synagogues. In the center of the picture Jesus is displayed, crucified and symbolized as being Jewish adorned in a prayer shawl.
White Crucifixion revealed nostalgia for 14th-century Italian art, and displayed an authentic coloristic value. This painting has thematic ties to Renaissance religious painting, especially the works by Michelangelo, but it also carries references to The Raising of the Cross by Rembrandt.
In White Crucifixion, his first and largest work on the subject, Chagall stressed the Jewish identity of Jesus in several ways: he replaced his traditional loincloth with a prayer shawl, his crown of thorns with a headcloth, and the mourning angels that customarily surround him with three biblical patriarchs and a matriarch, clad in traditional Jewish garments.
At either side of the cross, Chagall illustrated the devastation of pogroms: On the left, a village is pillaged and burned, forcing refugees to flee by boat and the three bearded figures below them - one of whom clutches the Torah - to escape on foot. On the right, a synagogue and its Torah ark go up in flames, while below a mother comforts her child. By linking the martyred Jesus with the persecuted Jews and the Crucifixion with contemporary events, Chagall's painting passionately identifies the Nazis with Christ's tormentors and warns of the moral implications of their actions. - White Crucifixion, 1938 by Marc Chagall
Dominating the picture above in the center is the figure of Jesus crucified. This is very much a Jewish Christ who wears a Jewish tallith instead of a loincloth. His head is covered by a bandana (and not a crown, turban or a Crown of Thorns). Over his head written in Hebrew and Latin are the words 'King of the Jews.’ As in our Latin style the artist uses the Roman letters in a acronym form INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum) to express the title King of the Jews. At his feet burns a menorah with only six candles, one unlit which is surrounded by a halo like the one that frames his head. Nothing speaks blasphemy, as it author is also Jewish.
Yes, Pope Francis likes this painting.
Pope Francis, who so clearly is a man who sides with the poor, the suffering and the marginalized, not to mention the religiously persecuted and martyred, must surely love the White Crucifixion of Marc Chagall precisely on account of our Christian understanding of Christ as the Innocent One crucified on account of human sins. Christian theology that teaches the solidarity of the Suffering Messiah with the suffering humanity finds a perfect emphasis in the common suffering of Jesus and the Jewish people in Chagall’s art. Pope Francis is not one who forgets the Jewish roots of Jesus. His solidarity with the poor brings him spiritually close to the Jews who suffered in the hands of the Nazis. And yet, above all else, what appeals to Pope Francis is the sign of hope. The Paschal Mystery which stands at the centre of the Christian narrative, is a journey from pain to hope, from darkness to light, from death to new life. Always mindful of the reality of human cruelty and suffering, Christian theology is nothing if not a theology of the cross and a theology of hope. For Pope Francis, the scene in The White Crucifixion:
There is not harm to the deposit of the faith for a pope to like this form of art as one of his favourites.
Not every form of Crucifix art within the Church has Our Lord wearing a Crown of Thorns! In fact it is not all that uncommon to see a Crucifix of the Risen Christ wearing a royal crown of some sort.
Crucifix with a Risen Christ and Crown
Churches that are under the patron all name of Christ the King for example sometimes have Crucifixes similar to he one shown above.
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