Circle of Bernard van Orley
The Crucifixion

Oil on panel
Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina

This is a traditional portrayal of the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary on the left in her usual blue, St. John on the right, and St. Mary Magdalene hugging the cross, although without the extravagant show of grief seen in earlier Crucifixion images. (See the detail photograph below.) In the background the artist has added the two thieves and the walled city of Jerusalem.

(See below for a detail photograph and discussion of the souls below the cross.)

Below the main Crucifixion scene these people appear to be awaiting the Redemption. Many are in antique dress and two (Abel and David?) carry lambs, so they may be the men and women who were faithful during Old Testament times. But Adam and Eve, who are always first among those rescued in the Harrowing of Hell, are absent. Perhaps these figures simply represent souls who are currently in Purgatory awaiting the prayers of Christians that will tap into the graces gained by Christ's sacrifice. (See my remarks on images of this type.)

St. Mary Magdalene hugs the foot of the cross.

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Read more about images of the Crucifixion and of St. Mary Magdalene.

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.