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North Cove - scenes from the Passion Cycle

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  North Cove, Passion Cycle, Christ Crucified [66KB]
Right:Christ Crucified.
A very odd scene, in which the setting up of the Cross and the spearing of Christ’s side by Longinus are taking place simultaneously. Longinus is clearly visible, hand to newly-sighted eye in his usual posture. The Cross though is not upright, but slants dramatically on a left diagonal, and three soldiers are hammering in the nails preparatory to the hauling up of the Cross with the crucified Christ - their grotesquely ugly faces, especially that of the man at the upper right, show fairly well here.

But the inclusion of Longinus delivering the death-blow, along with Stephaton presenting the sponge, makes nonsense of the timing; medieval painters usually found ways round the difficulty of depicting incidents following each other sequentially in the same space, but that has failed here, and the incidents are telescoped into confusion. What makes matters more difficult still is that there is no sign of Mary or John in the scene, and there is an area of wall above it where virtually all the painting has been lost. Possibly this lost area may have been a traditional presentation of the Crucifixion, but that would still leave the question of why Longinus’s spearing of Christ’s side is where it is. I suspect that a garbled memory of what the painter saw happening in a play of the Crucifixion is at the root of this confusion.

Left below:The Deposition

North Cove, Passion Cycle, Deposition [92KB]Along with the scene above, this is one of the clearest in the Cycle; most of the details - ladders, men on them and the kneeling figure wielding the pincers at the bottom - are reasonably easy to see. The haloed figure standing in front of the left-hand ladder is now revealed as having hands raised in lamentation, introducing the possibility that this is Mary Magdalene or the Virgin rather than Joseph of Arimathea. This certainly does look like a female figure, but then again, so does St. John in the Crucifixion at Turvey.

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Anne Marshall 2000 +++