The Many Depictions of Christ, Salvador Dali-Style
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
Christians honor the real reason for the season – not that they don’t also lock a big holiday hug on jolly old Saint Nick – and this brings us to – of all people – Salvador Dali.
Dali’s religious art in general is legendary and impressive. And his depictions of Jesus Christ in particular are pretty widely known; some consider them examples of his very best work.
But I must admit it never quite occurred to me just how prolific Dali was when it came to portraying Christ. The works that leap immediately to mind are the oil paintings, Christ of St. John of the Cross, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, and Corpus Hypercubus (Crucifixion), in Glasgow, Scotland; Washington, D.C., and New York City, respectively.
But there are more. Many more. Most that probably don’t leap so readily to mind, but are indeed significant. And Salvador Dali’s depictions of the Creator span all mediums: oils, prints, watercolors, drawings, sculpture – even jewelry.
Of his Art-in-Jewels piece, Lapis Lazuli Cross, Dali wrote, “Rays of diamonds represent the Light of Christ; the rubies, His Blood. The tree of engraved gold is mounted on cubes of lapis lazuli, the whole signifying in color and form and matter, the Strength and the Power of Christ.”
Lapis Lazuli Cross (left)
It’s also interesting to see the disparate way Dali actually rendered his images of Jesus. For example, he showed him from the extraordinary vantage point of the viewer being above Christ’s head (God the Father’s view) in the iconic Christ of St. John of the Cross; his face is not seen.
He showed Christ emerging from a hypercube in the mathematically ingenious Corpus Hypercubus (a.k.a., Crucifixion); again, his face is not seen.
And yet we very much discern a distinctive portrait of Christ in Dali’s The Sacred Heart of Jesus ( albeit his eyes are downcast).
Then there was a kind of “ghosted” treatment of Christ, where his figure could easily be missed altogether, unless you know to look for it. I’m talking right in the very center of the large masterwork, whose lengthy title is typically abbreviated to The Perpignan Railway Station. Astute observers will also notice the bloody gash in Christ’s right side.
Then there’s Christ on the cross – which replaces the sword often brandished by such horsemen – held in the hand of the Apostle, St. James, in the 1957 masterpiece, Santiago El Grande (shown here in a detail).
Let’s enjoy, then – as oils, prints, drawings, sculpture and more – the many manners in which Salvador Dali depicted Jesus Christ, as we get ever closer to the celebration of his birth – a most joyous and, yes, Dalinian time of year . . .
Dali depicted the Lord in many prints and drawings . . .
And in additional, remarkable paintings . . .
Sculpted pieces also honored the image of Christ . . .
Through it all, the lighter side of Salvador Dali managed to break through, from time to time . . .
Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays to the loyal readers of this blog from The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.
[Images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]