Sunday, July 10, 2022

#192 / We Begin As Spectators


The image above is of a Renaissance sculpture, Niccolò dell' Arca's "Compianto sul Cristo Morto," "Lamentation Over the Dead Christ." 
The sculpture is located in Bologna, Italy, in the Church of Santa Maria della Vita, and has been written about by William E. Wallace, in an article in the July 9-10, 2022, edition of The Wall Street Journal. You can click right here for a high-resolution version of the image, should you want to look at it more closely. 

Wallace is Director of Undergraduate Studies in Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis, and his article is very helpful in explaining dell' Arca's sculpture, telling us what is happening, and who is who. That is Christ, of course, horizontal in the center. The others depicted include Mary Magdalene, who is at the extreme right, and, on the left, kneeling, either Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus, who helped remove Christ from the Cross. Mary, the mother of Christ, is third from the left and is standing next to the young St. John.
I have never been to Bologna, and I don't remember having ever having seen this image before. I found it extremely powerful, and I think that the depiction of Mary Magdalene (at the far right, and not completely visible in the image atop this blog posting) is particularly compelling as an expression of horror at what the world has wrought. The world delivers so many horrors to us, doesn't it? Mass school murders, the invasion of the nation's Capitol, the assassination of a beloved and respected Japanese politician.... In many ways we witness the "murder of goodness," almost daily, in a million different guises. 
I decided to share this image in today's blog posting not only because it is so compelling, and because dell' Arca's sculpture is clearly something worth knowing about, but also because of one phrase that Wallace included in his explanation of the sculpture. 
Speaking to the powerful way that dell' Arca's sculptural group "grabs" us, involving us in the scene portrayed, Wallace says, "we begin as spectators and inevitably become participants." 

May our own encounters - with great art, and with all that the world brings us in the daily news, and with our own experience - have this kind of impact in our lives. We do "begin" as spectators, as observers, each one of us. In the end, though, the world is made not by what we see, but by what we do, and our calling is to act, to participate in the creation of the world around us. 
Let us observe. Let us be horrified and inspired. But let our interaction with the world not stop there. Let us become the "participants" we are meant to be.ò_dell%27Arca_by_Joy_of_Museums.jpg

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