The way of the cross

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Cycle of 14 tables started in 2003 and ended in 2005.


Despite the theme of the ‘Way of the Cross’ is well established by a centuries-old iconographic tradition and many artists from the most different trends devoted themselves to it, its fascination keeps on attracting and tormenting with the same enthralling force whoever decides to deal with such a mystery. Because still today, and maybe forever, the path of pain taken by Christ up to the extreme suffering remains a mystery, for believers and agnostics.

Master Marco Chiuchiarelli, even though he belongs to neither of the above categories, experienced a personal and painful path, a spiritual research which have led him, over the time, to measure up against the mystery of existence itself. This inner tension, linked for a long period of his life to religious urgencies and intensely inspired by the figure of Christ, encouraged the artist to pursue his personal interest in the ‘Via Dolorosa’. His research started from a passionate historical, religious and anthropological analysis of sources, which led him to place the traditional division into 14 stations in the 16th century. Before then, only some references to this theme were available. Leonardo di Portomaurizio established the 14 stations as a devotional practice.


Based on a historical in-depth analysis of this subject, Marco Chiuchiarelli decides to give a new interpretation to the evangelical story which becomes, in this way, a universal metaphor of the life cycle, of man’s existential condition.

If we observe the pictorial cycle from the first canvas to the last, we are necessarily touched by Christ’s loneliness, even more if we associate it with the events, even miraculous, of his life and his mission. Deeds performed by a more than human power did not earn him the support and comprehension from the majority. On the contrary, they were, due to a perverse game of fate or to calculation, the cause of the persecution and humiliation of the Man of Sorrows. To such an extent, that everything should and could have only come to an end with his death. Loneliness, a necessary companion to his last journey. So, this is the ultimate message that this artist embraced and wanted to convey with this cycle: the human being is alone, and no remedy exists for this unavoidable evil. At least, no cheap remedy.

The whole work is well structured in a grid which can be divided into three steps:

1) ‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold the Man) in polychromy;

2) ‘Via Crucis’ (Way of the Cross) in monochrome;

3) ‘Resurrezione’ (Ressurection)in polychromy.

The cycle is formally structured as an overturned pyramid, because it opens with the big-sized ‘Ecce Homo’ panel, and through the 14 canvases showing the stations, all with the same dimensions, it comes to the smaller ‘Resurrezione’. This is a path going to narrow, as if it should point out the growing hardness of Christ’s experience in his proceeding to death.

This theme, investigated in its cinematographic dimension, allowed the artist to create an extensive work which could make use of a photographic slant. This approach can be well seen since the very first panel, the whole-length ‘Ecce Homo’. The drapes are a sort of curtain coming between Christ’s stillness caught with a contemplative air and action characterizing the 14 panels. ‘Resurrezione’ is the smallest painting and is marked again by colour.


The 14 monochromatic panels of the ‘Via Crucis’ were conceived with a grey background, a non-invasive colour which could let the scene breathe. The objects are also essential, while the figures are cut, in order to narrow the observer’s view and allow a closer involvement.


In the 1st station Pilate has already sentenced Christ and is washing his hands. The verdict has been pronounced, nothing more can be changed. No appeal is possible


The 2nd station shows Jesus bound to the patibulum, the horizontal beam which was fastened to the vertical pole, thus making the cross. It is interesting to observe Christ while bending under the weight of the wood, as if his body should became a part of the cross itself.


In the 3rd station we can see Christ falling for the first time. However, Jesus is not lying on the ground, but is caught when falling. The three fallings are conceptually linked together: they are the three persons of Trinity, which in turn fall.


4th station: Jesus meets his mother along the Via Dolorosa. Mother and son form together the cross. She alone, as a mother, can be on her son’s side, and the son, in his turn, seems to come out of his mother’s womb, as if he was borne a second time. It is the imminent rebirth waiting for him as for the whole mankind, after death.


5th station: the Cyrenean. The two figures, Christ and Simon, are helping each other. At a first reading, that is the one generally accepted, the Cyrenean takes the burden of the cross on himself, thus giving a temporary relief to Jesus. In Chiuchiarelli’s canvas we can see a hundredth changing in perspective: Christ puts his hand on the man’s shoulder, with an apparent purpose of supporting himself. Actually, the Nazarene is offering, in his turn, his own support to the Cyerenean symbolizing, in that moment, the whole mankind which finds a relief in Christ when it itself decides to share his suffering.


6th station: the second fall. Christ is on his knees.


With the 7th station the artist wishes to point out one more time the primary role of woman in Christ’s history. The main character is Veronica, the one who wipes Christ’s face with a cloth. She is the only figure who moves away from the thronging crowd and helps the Savior. Even now the woman shows her own strength, a strength that men seem to ignore.


The female figure is the leading character in the 8th station too. The women of Jerusalem meet Jesus while they are taking an amphora of water, symbol of relief, with them.


9th station: third fall. Christ is oppressed by the patibulum. The conceptual path of the three falls has come then to an end: a symbolic fall of body, spirit and soul.


10th station: Jesus is disrobed. This is a moment of intimacy. Christ is bared, but nobody appears. Instead, a covertly divine intervention can be gathered from the lifting up of Christ’s robe. It’s the Father, the only who has the right to bare his son.


The 11th station introduces the observer in the climax of the Way. Christ has come by now to the Golgotha and is showed while he is being nailed to the cross. The point of view is from the ground, the participation to pain must be as much close as possible. This is the only way to perceive its intensity.


12th station: Crucifixion. The drama is near its end. There is an empty space between the arm and the body: it is the observer’s space. In this way, he/she can be placed nearer and nearer and see the last moments of the condemned as if he/she was much close to him.


13th station: the Pietà. It is ideally linked to the 4th station: the mother, with a undefinable gesture of love, receives her son again in her womb. The robe’s drape acts as a uterus. The world did not accept her son and the mother takes him again with her.


14th station: Deposition in the grave. Only with the death the face will regain its serenity. Joseph of Arimathea’s gaze has no pupils, as if this should mean that there is nothing more to be seen. The man could not see what was to be seen.


From this last reflection the last panel, the ‘Resurrezione’, finds its natural prosecution. However, it is also in this case the artist’s personal interpretation of the event, out of the usual depicting canons. According to the tradition, Christ, once resurrected, comes out of the grave in all his divine majesty, purified from any earthly imperfection, supreme triumphant of death, and aggelos, the messenger of hope for a rebirth sealed by his own resurrection. But Christ in the iconographic tradition is well visible and recognizable even in the majesty of his glory, his features never changing over the time, in order to avoid any doubt about his identity. Instead, Marco Chiuchiarelli’s Resurrected Man does not fall into fixed and definitely inviolable depicting schemes. The only ‘physical’ element appearing on the scene is an arm coming out from a robe, it might be any man’s arm, nothing brings to identify it as belonging to the Messiah’s body. No reference that lets presume a relationship between the Part and the Whole. No tombstone thrown out by God’s power, no roman sentry woken up with a start, and astonished by a vision unbearable by human eyes. No transfigured Man-God. Just an arm, lying still along the body, however visibly loaded with energy, a hundredth recall to man’s loneliness, but a man alone with himself, who can face life consciously, fortified by a inner rebirth that doesn’t need any rumble of thunder to reveal himself. No longer the triumph of God on physical death, but the triumph of the Ego on darkness, where struggles the spirit that artist Marco Chiuchiarelli wanted to fix on the canvas. Resurrection is an act of faith and, as such, doesn’t need the full presence of the resurrected man. So, even only one arm can be a proof for those who wish to believe. From a pictorial point of view, ‘Resurrezione’ and ‘Ecce Homo’ may be symmetrical: the hidden right arm of Christ waiting for the judgement seems to appear again in the resurrected man.

A further aspect has to be pointed out that makes this ‘Via Crucis’ different from all the others: the absence of blood. The artist knowingly avoided using the easy violent images (often recalling a Grand Guignol play) to which the iconographic tradition has accustomed the visual imagination of believers and not believers. The artist’s aim was to demolish the orthodox view by searching, certainly with a greater effort, a deeper meaning, maybe hidden, of the Via Crucis. So, once cancelled every sign of a possible ‘divine’ clue associated with the figure of Yeshua the Jew, what does it remain? Just a double interpretative choice to be made. It is the likely miracle operated by a god who decides to make himself a creature and to die in the name of mankind’s salvation. On the other hand, it may also be the story of a man who willingly sacrifices himself for the other men, provided that his message of love may live through him.