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Culture Nivel C1

Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ in eight great art works

The last week of the life of Christ, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, central moment of the Catholic liturgical calendar, has been a source of inspiration for great universal artists who produced unrepeatable works, among them the eight proposed here. Holy Week has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage in Spain and also aspires to be it for Unesco.

Beyond the devotional exaltation typical of the Baroque imagery that every Holy Week floods, step by step, the streets of cities and towns, the history of art is full of great masterpieces which tell the last week of the life of Jesus – Passion, Death and Resurrection – from a more conceptual and evangelical, even pedagogical, reflection of the institutionality of the Catholic Church in all areas of power, especially between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries.


Despite being one of the most famous wall paintings in the world, “The Last Supper” (1498) which Leonardo Da Vinci painted for the refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan (Italy), has arrived in a very bad state of conservation.

About this, Ernst Gombrich (Vienna 1909-London 2001) said “it remains one of the great miracles due to human genius.” Leonardo, in his eagerness to innovate, didn’t use as usual the fresco technique, but a mixture of tempera and oil, as well as a substance based on oil and varnish, elements which on a poor plaster wall caused their deterioration very soon.


Museo del Prado, the great art gallery in Madrid, has two works by Titian which narrates a moment of the so-called “Viacrucis” (way of the Cross), in which Simon Cireneo is forced to help Jesus when he falls exhausted on the way to Calvary or Golgotha.

While the first, ‘Christ on the way to Calvary’, is an austere work of color but more narrative, showing us explicitly the fall of Christ on his knees, in the second, ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’ (1565-1570), the artist Venetian, at the end of his life, manifests itself with a freer brushstroke and a more vivid color, full of brightness, which give the work a modernity and freshness that the former doesn’t have.


“The Expolio” (or “The Disrobing of Christ”) by El Greco was painted between 1577-1579 for the sacristy of the cathedral of Toledo (Spain). It is a huge oil on canvas whose theme is not very common in iconography.

It shows the moment when Christ is stripped of his clothes to be crucified. Jesus, with a tunic of very intense red, dominates over the rest of the composition and is represented, not as God, but as a man victim of human passions.


Also known simply as “The Christ” by Velázquez, the oil painting on canvas, “Christ Crucified” or “Christ of San Placido”, is the most copied and reproduced Spanish devotional image of all time, perhaps because of that feeling of rest, of solitude and recollection in the face of torment; a content pain that gives way to calmness, that overwhelms more than when its external marks are evident.

It represents the same moment of the death of Christ, without making any reference to space or time, where only a soft halo of mystic light envelops him, again Jesus as a light which imposes itself on the darkness.


“The Descent from the Cross” (1435), masterpiece of the Flemish painter Rogier Van der Weyden, would be the central section of a triptych whose sides are not preserved.

The work collects the moment of the descent of the body of Christ framed by a composition of ten figures of almost natural size which seem to form a sculptural group in a shallow niche.


“The Pietá (Piety)” (1498-1499) by Michelangelo Buonarroti is a sculptural work done in marble which represents the moment in which a very young Mary, mother, bears the terrible pain of the death of her son, on a natural scale and seen from the Neoplatonist Renaissance idealism, where beauty overcomes suffering.

The face of the young Mary also responds to this desire of the author to represent the mother of Jesus eternally immaculate, eternally virgin.

It was the first of many times that Michelangelo approached this topic, but at 24 years, the work was so splendid that many doubted his authorship, so in a fit of rage, he engraved his name, crossing the chest of the Virgin, being his only signed work.


“The Entombent of Christ” (1602-1604) by Caravaggio is an exceptional painting in which Saint John and Nicodemus hold with effort the dead body of Jesus which occupies the center of the canvas.

Caravaggio moves away from the Renaissance models by showing rough, downcast and crouching characters, in a composition where there a lof of violent foreshortenings: one of the gesticulating hands of one of the three Marys who, looking back at the sky, sharpens the drama, or the one of the own body of Christ.


The work of the Museo del Prado “The Transfiguration of Our Lord” (1520-1528) is a copy which Giovan Francesco Penni made of the work of Raphael (1517-20) of which he was a disciple and collaborator and which is preserved in the Vatican Museums.

It is considered the last painting of Rafael, which he left unfinished and it is divided in two parts. The lower one collects an outside episode to the Resurrection, the failure of the apostles to try to cure a patient, which allowed him to travel, with great drama, the different moods of the characters.

The two works are very similar. The painting of the Museo del Prado is distinguished by specific details, such as the less marked halo which surrounds Christ, Elijah and Moses, as well as the use of chiaroscuro and the colour that, in the teacher is more powerful and vibrant. An ambitious work that the master Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) described as the most beautiful and divine of Rafael.

Translation from EFE/Reportajes, Spanish text by Amalia Gonzalez Manjavacas (art historian).

(April 2019, EFE/Practica Español)

News related in video (2015):


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Question 1
El texto habla de... (The text talks about...)    
unas obras de arte relacionadas con la Natividad de Cristo.
algunas obras de arte sacro en las que aparece Cristo.
los cuadros más importantes realizados solo por pintores renacentistas.
Question 2
Sobre 'La última cena' se dice que... (About "he Last Supper", it's said...)  
no se conserva muy bien a causa de la técnica que utilizó Leonardo da Vinci.
se conserva muy bien ya que fue pintada en una pared.
se conserva muy bien a pesar de haberse utilizado una mezcla de temple y óleo.
Question 3
En ese cuadro de Van der Weyden se muestra... (In that painting by Van der Weyden, it is showed...)  
el momento en el que Cristo estaba siendo crucificado.
el momento en el que Cristo fue bajado de la cruz.
el momento en el que Cristo carga con la cruz.
Question 4
Cuando se dice que en el cuadro de Caravaggio hay 'escorzos', se refiere a... (When it is said there are 'escorzos' in the Caravaggio's painting, it refers to...)
a los materiales que fueron utilizados para pintar ese cuadro.
a una técnica que no tiene nada que ver con la perspectiva.
a una técnica para dar más profundidad a la pintura.
Question 5
En el texto se dice que... (It's said in the text that...)  
'El Cristo' de Velázquez transmite una sensación de reposo.
 "La Pietá" es una de las últimas obras realizadas por Miguel Ángel.
El Greco pintó "El Expolio" en las primeras décadas del siglo dieciséis.
Question 6
En el vídeo se dice que... (It's said in the text...)  
una obra de Roger Van der Weyden será restaurada en breve.
Felipe III compró "El Calvario" de Roger Van der Weyden.
"El Calvario" de Roger Van der Weyden fue pintado en el siglo quince.
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