Crucifixion with Instruments of Christ’s Passion
Isolated in their grief, the figures of the Virgin and Saint John flank the cross. Displayed in the border are the Arma Christi, the Instruments of Christ’s Passion. These include the column and scourges of the Flagellation, the cockerel representing Saint Peter’s denial, a hammer, spear, sponge, pincers and three nails, which rest on the empty tomb.
Christ’s body has a slight yellow-green cast, achieved with a mixture of lead white, yellow ochre, and azurite modelled with strokes of grey-brown and cool white highlights, which also contain azurite (hotspot 1). St John and the Virgin, by contrast, were painted with rosier complexions of pink (lead white, red ochre, vermilion and an organic red) and grey-brown modelling over a white base layer, their eyes reddened with vermilion to express their grief (hotspots 2 and 3). This image, with its squat figures, was probably painted by one of Bening’s assistants, who followed literally the prescription in contemporary painting manuals for making a clear distinction in flesh tone paint mixtures between ‘the living’ and ‘the dead’.