Crucifixion - Salvador Dali
The Nazarene was not weak! He was strong and is strong! But the people refuse to heed the true meaning of strength … He lived as a leader: He was crucified as a crusader; He died with a heroism that frightened His killers and tormentors. Jesus was not a bird with broken wings; He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings. — Kahlil Gibran
Christ crucified on a hypercube, using cubes as nails. Gala, Dalí’s wife, is the figure in the bottom left, who stands looking up to the crucified Jesus. The scene is depicted in front of the bay of Port Lligat
What Salvador Dali has cleverly done is shown Christ crossing into another dimension, crossing the transition zone.
When I first saw this painting it took my breath away. But first a little background which will aid understanding.
Picture a point, then a line of length unit one, then a square of side unit length one, then a cube of similar side length. What we have drawn when we draw a cube is the equivalentof a line in three dimensions. Now, if you can, picture or at least imagine the equivalent of cube in four dimensions, this is a hypercube.
Now unfold outwards the sides of a cube. What we get is cross formed of adjacent squares, a cube represented in two dimensions. We can do the same with a hypercube, fold it out into three dimensions, but istead of adjacent squares in the form of a cross, what we get is adjacent cubes in the form of a three dimensional cross.
That is what I saw and that is what took my breath away, Christ was nailed not with nails but with cubes to a hypercube. Effectively what Dali was saying was Christ was being taken to another dimension, He was crossing the transitiion zone, but Dali was saying this using the mathemetical symbols in the painting.
It was some time in the 1970s. I was doing the first year of Arts at University. I gave a talk on what I saw. Everyone was astounded, they had not seen this before. But then why should they, they would need to not only understand the mathematics but also be able to imagine a hypercube.
Crossing the transition zone works both ways. Dali pictures Jesus crossing into another dimenension, but we also have God the infinite being represented by a frail human being.
As Paul so eloquently put it in Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God.
‘I thirst’ the last cry on the cross, the frailty of a human being, the eternity of God.
St Augustine understood only too well this crossing of the transition zone:
He becomes what we are, in order that we might become what he is.
Or to quote the Athanasian Creed:
Although he is both divine and human
He is not two beings but one Christ.
One, not by turning God into flesh
But by taking humanity into God.
Anyone who says Dali had no understanding of mathemetics not only does not know what they are talking about, but they themselves have no understanding either. It is like those fools who look for conflict between different religions or religions and science.
We can see this symbolism in his other paintings.
If we assume nothing appears by chance, and with Dali that is a reasonable assumption, then what of the chessboard? What does it mean? Anyone who has read The Eight (and if not please do) will realise this is a very good question.
It is not something I have thought about before and the simple answer is I do not know. I can only speculate. God as the Grand Chess Master. What then of the figure looking up? We know she is Gala, Dalí’s wife, but what or who does she represent? Is she Mary? If yes, then which Mary, Mary the Mother of Christ or Mary Magdalene? If this is a game of chess, is she the Queen?
More on the life and and works of Dali at
Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali
Crucifixion hangs in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
- The Cross
- Salvador Dali: painting the fourth dimension
- ‘I Thirst’
- Holy Week
- The First Easter Week Musing
- Quema de Palmitos
- Ash Wednesday
- The Cross
- Passover supper
- Maundy Thursday
- The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion