PICTURING THE PASSION: ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’ by Hieronymus Bosch (1515 – 1516)

 ‘The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls’ – Edgar Allan Poe

Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter, was born in the mid 1400’s in Southern Netherlands. As a man of his times he attributed all human behaviour to either good or evil, to God or the Devil. In his paintings he often captured the monsters within man and presented them with flashing fantasy. A fantasy so real, that it provoked the viewer’s heart to an intimate awareness of one’s scandalized self. Bosch painted man as he appeared from the inside and not merely by face – value.

One of his most celebrated paintings is that of ‘Christ carrying the Cross’. Bosch executed it a year before his death. A deeply contemplative image, through this painting Bosch invites us to journey inwards, to shake our rigid hearts and to identify ourselves with Christ and His passion.

At once we confront a landscape of faces. According to the science of Physiognomy, the face is said to be the window to the soul. A beautiful face meant a pure soul while an ugly visage was equated with sin and deviance. A hooked nose meant deceit and lust; an acute jaw indicated brutality while thick lips spelled mental abnormality. Profuse accessories and exaggerated gestures was an immediate indication to a bad character.

As we glance through the painting, we notice at the center lies the peaceful face of Jesus. He is lost in a tangle of scowling, grinning, leering, grotesque caricatured heads. Each possesses a bizarre personality and emotion. As we analyse the painting, lets journey through this creation of cruelty and cynicism.

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