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The Crucifixion of Christ / Kaufmann’s Crucifixion

Passion Story, Image 233

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Audio transcription

Henryk Górecki’s “Jesu Christi frater noster” recounts scenes from the Passion in five verses, which can also be seen in this 14th century painting.

[Music.]

The painting shows the crucifixion at Golgatha. Jesus on the cross receives the lance thrust by the blind Longinus. When the blood from Jesus’s wounds wets his eyes, he can see again. The two thieves who are crucified with Jesus are literally bound to the cross. Angels with censers hover mournfully above the cross. Among the many figures that have gathered under the cross, one stands out because of a gesture: On the right in a red robe, wearing his duke’s hat and raising his index finger, stands the Good Captain. According to the Gospel of Matthew he said after Christ’s death: “Truely, this was God’s son!”

Easily recognizable in the bustling crowd are the soldiers playing dice for the robes of the crucified man. To the left of the cross, Mary and John stand close to one another, Mary Magdalene clenches the cross in grief.

The unknown painter has paid great attention to the bodies, postures and gestures of the figures and their faces in his work. Even the robes are presented in magnificent colours and elaborate drapery; Jesus’s loincloth and the ground are extremely vivid. The painter has incorporated crevices and recesses. This creates great depth. Górecki manages with comparatively few notes in his setting to music of everything that is being described in the song: the flowing blood, Jesus dying, the opening ground, Mary standing by the cross. “Jesu Christi frater noster” ends on a bitter call to brother Jesus: “Have mercy on us.”

Full Length Music

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Henryk Górecki (1933–2010)
„Jesu Christe, frater noster“
From: "Church Songs", op. 84
RIAS Kammerchor Berlin

Details

The Crucifixion of Christ / Kaufmann’s Crucifixion (um 1340),
Bohemian or Austrian painter,
Canvas,
68.0 × 30.0 cm

Jörg P. Anders

Detail, Adam´s skull

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Audio transcription

From an interview with Stephan Kemperdick, curator of the Gemäldegalerie, spoken by Andrew Redmond, bass in the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin

This is Adam’s skull by the way, that was buried where the cross will stand later. And Jesus’s blood drips onto it so that Adam becomes alive again. There are visualizations from earlier times where you can actually see that Adam is resurrected and leaves his cave.

Detail, Longinus lance thrust

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Audio transcription

From an interview with Stephan Kemperdick, curator of the Gemäldegalerie, spoken by Andrew Redmond, bass in the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin

Longinus is blind and when Christ’s blood wets his eyes, he will be able to see again. So he always has an assistant with him who carries the lance. He is here and on the other side, there’s Stephaton with the Ysop and the sponge of vinegar, that’s a whole torture of its own. Christ said, just before he died, “I’m thirsty”, and he dips the sponge in vinegar and gives it to Jesus, so he is rather negative.

Detail, Symmetry

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Audio transcription

From an interview with Gregor Meyer, artistic assistant of the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin, spoken by Andrew Redmond, bass in the RIAS Kammerchor Berlin

When approaching the painting and allowing it to have its full effect, there is an incredible restlessness because there is so much going on. Much of the painting is fully populated, on little space a lot of scenery is taking place, but when looking at it for longer, it starts to become more ordered. Perhaps it is the conscious, symmetric order that’s observed, with the number of people on the left and right side. Maria Magdalene at the centre at the foot of the cross, the two persecutors left and right as well as the two angels.

Górecki also orders his phrases symmetrically. He also tells us different aspects and scenes from the Passion.

[Music.]

The Crucifixion of Christ / Kaufmann’s Crucifixion
Gemäldegalerie
Main floor, Room 4

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