Posts Tagged ‘Salvador Dali’

Christ of Saint John of the Cross

April 22, 2011
Christ of Saint John of the Cross -  Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John of the Cross - Salvador Dali

We see Jesus on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although it is a depiction of the crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood, and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. Also in a dream, the importance of depicting Christ in the extreme angle evident in the painting was revealed to him.

The painting is known as the Christ of Saint John of the Cross because it is based on a drawing by the 16th century Spanish friar Saint John of the Cross.

The composition of Christ is also based on a triangle and circle (the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by Christ’s head). The triangle, since it has three sides, can be seen as a reference to the Trinity, and the circle may be an allusion to Platonic thought

On the bottom of his studies for the painting, Dalí explained its inspiration:

In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!

Around this time Dali took an interest in quantum physics and other dimensions. As with Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus, we have this crossing of the transition zone.

I recall seeing Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali in an art gallery in Glasgow. It was acquired for the princely sum of £8,200, all that was left in the budget, knocked down from a catalogue price of £12,000 and yet at the time the purchase was attacked as being extravagant, a waste of public money. The Spanish government is rumoured to have offered £80 million for the painting.

Crucifixion or Corpus Hypercubus

April 22, 2011
Crucifixion - Salvador Dali

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

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