Cameo of Christ

“Entombment” by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

It was nine o’clock this morning when I read that Jesus was crucified and later died on that Good Friday. It was the day of preparation according to the Bible. Pictured here is the fascinating Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Joseph, and many other cameos in a gesture line drawing, “Entombment,” by Peter Paul Rubens, (1577-1640).

We are witnessing Christ off the cross. What I am seeing is a painterly, gesture ink line drawing, where the figures are not evenly illuminated, but shed on important bodily features such as shoulder strength stationed to hold a temporary extension of death in a corpse completely cold.

I’m seeing a recessional construction, dominated by figures placed at an angle to the picture plane and recedes into depth. The figures move back from the front plane, starting with the limp arm of Christ. He directs our attention to a bold black arrow anchored at the hip line of man to the body of Christ. Other cameos placed diagonally create action on the surface of the picture, saying something psychological has happened here and has cut me to the quick >>> Christ died today.

I’m seeing a closed composition hung by black shawls over the left and right borders of the frame, and by cumulus clouds above and a concrete base below that close off the picture. The picture is self-contained. The closed form conveys an impression of stability. The legs at the sides close off the picture with strong vertical accents, reinforced by the horizontal accent of Christ’s body in the center. Horizontal accents are also provided by the steps.There is a feeling of little space beyond the edges of the picture.

The composition is dynamic rather than static. Finding relief in activity, it suggests movement and is full of uneven, momentary effects, as opposed to two equally important companions, stillness and tranquility.

This ink drawing is about contrast. I am most taken by the long unbearable silence that contrasts Mary Magdalene’s mass of confusion at the corners of her mind, the running on of her thoughts beyond these scribbled lines, a slight conflict between the reality of Christ, and the meaning of her dirty, broken life, shielded by a motley tribe.

This is where our story begins.

“Cameo of Christ”
Can you ever walk again
when you been down?
then again
Can you ever stand
when you never had a bad land?
Or if a man die, can he live again?

where there’s no vision
people perish in pain
and we run this race in vain
let me join the rain

terribly long, unproductive stormy hours
crowds of clouds cry in healing crisis
please don’t pass us
sitting in our sickness

shake, shake off this paralysis
weak arms stretch out for help and healing
treat the sick and speak forgiveness
push up my sleeves and lift up Jesus

it’s hard to explain that the sun is out
when single grains of wheat remain
new bottles can’t contain
let me join the rain

layer upon layer of injuries ingrained
engraved like graffiti in my memories and brain
so take these canes that constrain
and lay me daily at the stained glass gate

to live is Christ, to die is gain
let me join the rain, rain
let me join the rain

ashamed of open wounds wall flowered in gloom
afraid I’m too removed from the scene inside the room
full panorama view of Christ’s healing virtue
pull me in the pool or break up the roof!

prior Good News becomes powerhouse proof
first bootstrap step comes plunging through
out of the old and into the new

be strong and of good courage my dearly beloved
let not your heart be troubled
I feel we’ll soon be healed

weight of the world now rolls off our shoulder
as the world walks by amazed
O bright ray, what’s left to say
we lay in comfortable silence

~ Stayc Sweeney