What catches your eye?

Do you know how when you're walking around a gallery certain pieces will automatically catch your eye? That happened to me today. I was at the Ashmolean in Oxford, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was meant to be revising, and I saw a painting by a Dutch artist. There was nothing particularly special about this painting it is not even that famous at all... I think the image I saw was a replication of the actual painting. All that aside this painting drew me in. There was something about the colours and the way Christ's body draped down with this sense of utter helplessness which forced me to stop. I think this post might be quite random and I will probably write a few posts like this so get ready! What makes you stop and look at a piece of art? What makes your eye turn and observe a painting? Colour? Figures? Texture? Admittedly, mine is colour. I'm like a bug, I am just attracted to it. The colour of this painting was incredible. The harshness of the red in the blood was the first thing which caught my eye. It was so beautifully gruesome.

Dutch artists are renowned for the likeliness in their paintings I mean just look at The Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck... I have no words. This painting which I have not yet named was by an artist called Anthony van Dyck, The Deposition. Studying History of art you have to be able to admire religious paintings no matter how boring you may think they are, but with my Catholic roots, I feel that images of Christ on the cross and the Virgin Mary are quite personal to me. I looked up at this painting and after seeing the blood gush out of the open wounds of the lifeless Christ it was Mary who furthered my fascination with this painting. The tear rolling down her cheek was illuminated and gracefully fell into the lit section of the painting. There was a real sense of mourning and loss in this painting, also a real sense of death which may be obvious because The Deposition was when Christ was taken down from the cross, however, I did not seem to get any sense of glorification from Christ. He seemed as though his body had been carried from a battlefield, he seems helpless. The sense of vulnerability was something which I really appreciated from this painting. His thorn crown was sitting on the floor broken and bloody, a piece of paper with the Latin, 'IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM', which translates to 'Jesus, King of the Jews' was rolled up in the corner of the composition. The irony of this statement was evident as it was placed next to, essentially, a limp carcass, obviously we know what happens next but this scene showed the reality in which we all face. It was a memento mori, a reminder that Jesus did die and rise from the dead (as said in the Bible).

So what was I drawn to... the colour. But what did that lead me to? The subject matter because that is one of the most prominent parts of 17th-century paintings. Is it what you would be drawn to with modern art, well that is a topic for another time.


The Deposition, Anthony van Eyck, c. 1619, oil on canvas.

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