In this oil painting, Richard Sevigny used an almost EC comic-book style to portray Mary taking possession of the body of her son after his gruesome execution.
This is another example of Richard looking to inject time-worn Biblical episodes with graphic power. But here, Richard appears to depart sharply from Scripture on a number of points, as we shall see.
Blood flows down from the cross in widening rivulets and Jesus Christ’s hand, raised to his lower chest or throat in agony, suggests he is still clinging to life, or has died in Mary’s arms. The gospel has Christ “giving up the ghost” while still on the cross.
When I was a child, I asked my father, “Who is the man that’s holding Jesus?” Indeed, Richard portrayed Mary’s face so contorted with grief that she almost looks masculine. Mary, “full of grace,” bears no resemblance to the woman we know from Sunday school pictures or church sculptures.
She holds her son’s body, almost displaying it or offering it up to the world, or to heaven. The palette is interesting, too, and classic Sevigny. Apart from the red blood, the cloth of the same color across Christ’s midsection, and Mary’s blue shawl, the entire scene is rendered in warm, earth tones.
There are two figures in the background but Richard offers no hints as to who they might be. Are they executioners cleaning up after the job is done? Are they curious onlookers? Or are they apostles, gearing up to make a run for it?
In any case, the figures and the general sense of movement in the background suggest that Richard imagined this moment as one taking place amidst a more generalized chaos. It’s the absolute opposite of the isolation we see in Abraham and Isaac.