The Crucifixion

Circa 1270-1290
Leaf from a missal, tempera and gold leaf on parchment
Metropolitan Museum of Art 1981.322. Bequest of Thomas W. Lamont.

This image exemplifies the new approach to Crucifixion iconography in Gothic art. Christ's eyes are closed, his arms stretch with the burden of his weight, and his head slumps onto his right shoulder, clear indications that he is dead. The body is affixed to the cross with just three nails: the earlier practice, continued into some medieval works, was to show the feet nailed separately.

The older iconography is preserved in the evocations of the sun and moon above the crossbeam.

At the foot of the cross Adam holds a chalice to collect the blood that flows from Christ's wounds, a reference to the doctrine that by sacrificing himself Christ obtained forgiveness for the sins of Adam and his descendants. The chalice in particular relates this doctrine to the sacrifice memorialized in the liturgy of the Eucharist.

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Read more about images of the Crucifixion and of Adam.

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