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What Our Lord Saw from the Cross (Ce que voyait Notre-Seigneur sur la Croix)

James Tissot

European Art

In the most memorable, and even notorious, of Tissot’s images, Christ looks out at the crowd of spectators arrayed before him: Mary Magdalene, in the immediate foreground, with her long red tresses swirling down her back, kneels at his feet, which are clearly visible at the bottom center of the composition. Beyond her, the Virgin Mary clutches her breast, while John the Evangelist looks up with hands clasped.

The artist here adopts the point of view of Christ himself. Few painters have conceived a composition this daring. In his audacity, however, Tissot remains true to his artistic vision: ultimately, the image is an exercise in empathy. Its point is to give viewers, accustomed to looking at the event from the outside, a rare opportunity to imagine themselves in Christ’s place and consider his final thoughts and feelings as he gazed on the enemies and friends who were witnessing, or participating in, his death.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886-1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 9 3/4 x 9 1/16 in. (24.8 x 23 cm) Sheet: 9 3/4 x 9 1/16 in. (24.8 x 23 cm) Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed bottom right: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.299
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). What Our Lord Saw from the Cross (Ce que voyait Notre-Seigneur sur la Croix), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray-green wove paper, Image: 9 3/4 x 9 1/16 in. (24.8 x 23 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.299
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.299_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (86%)
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