DRAWING by DANIEL MITSUI
This is an ink drawing on an 8 1/2" × 11" piece of Bristol board. I drew it using fine-tipped pens and calligraphers’ inks applied with brushes.
Vox Clara is a Vatican committee of senior bishops from episcopal conferences throughout the English-speaking world that advises the Holy See on English-language liturgy. In 2012, the committee published an interim edition of the Roman Pontifical, including new translations of certain texts drawn from the revised Roman Missal. I was commissioned to create a series of five color illustrations for this book, including this one of the Crucifixion.
The central image depicts Christ on the Cross, with the Blessed Virgin and St. John. In medieval art, a Crucifixion scene is almost always divided into two sides. The one to Christ’s right hand represents the New Covenant and includes the Blessed Virgin, the sun, and the good thief Dismas; the one to His left hand represents the Old Covenant and includes St. John (who, when allowing St. Peter to pass before him to enter the empty Holy Sepulcher, became a type of the Old Covenant), the moon and the bad thief Gesmas.
A skull at the foot of the cross indicates Calvary, the place of the skull where Adam was buried. A millefleur pattern fills the rest of the ground beneath the three crosses. The inscription above the cross is written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, as described in the Gospels of Luke and John. Four angels hold chalices to catch the Precious Blood.
The Lamb of God and the pelican in her piety, two Christological symbols, appear above and below the Holy Cross. Flanking them are four prefigurements of Christ’s death, taken from the Biblia Pauperum and the Speculum Humane Salvationis. Three of these are from the Old Testament: Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Eleazar Maccabee killing a war elephant and dying underneath the falling beast; and Moses lifting up the brazen serpent in the desert. The allegorical significance of the brazen serpent was explained by Christ Himself: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting. The fourth prefigurement is from secular history: Codrus, King of Athens, sacrificing his life to save his city.
In the corners are the four winged beasts representing the Evangelists.
15th century panel paintings, tapestries and prints influenced this drawing. Artists whose work I studied when drawing it include Gerard David, Martin Schongauer, Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of the Holy Kinship.
The original drawing included liturgical scenes and portraits specific to the Roman Pontifical; Eleazar Maccabee, Codrus, and the Evangelists were drawn on separate pieces of vellum and edited into the print file in their places.
An open-edition giclée print of this drawing is available for $88. You may use the button below to pay via PayPal, debit card or credit card. Be sure to confirm the shipping address.
This drawing is part of a set of five (along with High Priest, Last Supper, Pentecost and Presentation. If you order the full set at once, the fifth print is free.
See this page for additional ordering instructions and general information. If you want to pay via a check or money order, please e-mail me at danmitsui [at] hotmail [dot] com.