The Eye Of The Beholder

March 25, 2016
by Lou Ciccanti

Numbers 19:2 – This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed." (NASB)

John 19:30 – Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (NASB)

In an era of rapidly changing customs and thought patterns, the world of art likewise changes, following trends related to various philosophical worldviews. During my attendance at the college of art from 1961 to 1962, the prevalence of impressionism was slowly waning and new artistic styles were emerging as changing styles became popular: from cubism to surrealism to the beginnings of limitless modernism.

As such a change agent, Salvador Dali, an infamous Spanish painter from Fugueres, Spain, had an immense effect on art and culture. Some say he was a madman, others a genius. His surrealistic art moved beyond reality, using irrational images. Eccentric as he may have been, however, during his surrealistic period, Dali was forced to move back into classical religious mysticism.

Influenced by a sketch by John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic of the counter-reformation during the 1600s, Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" (1951) became a brilliant masterpiece of the twentieth century. I was not yet a believer, but this painting scornfully withered my deliberate rejection of conventional expertise. Not being spiritually comprehending of its unique, intrinsic value, the content was nevertheless extremely inspirational to me.

Although the interpretation of art is personal and subjective, when I contemplate this important work (which may be viewed here), I believe that Dali has captured the precise split-second when Jesus gave up the ghost at His crucifixion. The point of view is not from below, the way humanity depicts Him, but rather from above, through the eye of the Beholder — God the Father. Noticeably, other important details are missing: There are no visible nails, blood, or crown of thorns. And His sacrifice does not have the imagery of Isaiah 53: pain, suffering, stricken, pierced, and crushed, but is rather stylized as a pure, spotless, unblemished Lamb on an untarnished golden cross, fit to re-enter the undefiled heavenly sphere.

Hebrews 9:11-14 – When Christ appeared as a high priest … through His own blood, He entered the holy place once and for all … [and] through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God. (NASB)

That being said, when we contemplate our Lord's finished work of redemption, we, too, should focus not just on a bruised, beaten body, but on the unblemished Lamb of God, our Saviour, Who takes away the sins of the world, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, our High Priest in a state of perfection. We are therefore reminded of these words:

Matthew 27:54 – The centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus … said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" (NASB)

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we offer up thanks for giving Your Son as a ransom for many. Help us to stay focused on our unblemished Redeemer. Strengthen and continually fill us, by Your grace and mercy, with the Spirit Whom we so desperately need as our daily sustenance. This we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

Lou Ciccanti <breadoflife@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Great devotion Lou and information too. Have a Happy Easter…or Resurrection Day.


    Thank you, Lou, for this meditation upon the Holy, perfect, Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Blessings.


    This was an excellent devotional to send to us on Good Friday and thank you for including Dali’s picture too.


    Thanks, Lou, for a different and interesting perspective. The painting is beautiful. Can’t remember seeing it before.


    Lori,
    Thank you for such an abundant sharing! We have witnessed more of the bread of life through your eyes. How grateful we are.


    Dear Brother Lou,
    What a thoughtful look at the precious Son of Father God! Thank you for drawing us close to this event in history, the day a way was accomplished for our own victory over sin and death. Praise Him!


    Hello Lou Ciccanti,
    Thank you for taking the time to so carefully write out your thoughts regarding the different types of art that have been produced throughout the centuries and especially your comment on the painting “Christ of St. John of the Cross.
    I am interested in seeing the painting of Christ on the Cross at the moment that He gave up His Spirit.
    I have read some of your previous contributions to PresbyCan Daily and appreciate your insight.
    May God continue to guide and keep you in His care.
    (Ont. Canada)


    Hello Lou,
    As always, I enjoyed reading your devotional this morning….and how appropriate!
    You brought back a memory from my youth that has remained with me all my life. Dali chose to (world) premier the subject painting in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland. Our mother took us all to that beloved place, trudged us down there on opening day.
    I cannot imagine how our mother kept all of us quiet and respectful in that two hour lineup, but as we slowly, finally filed past, I was changed forever. The painting seemed huge to me, of course. My drawing pencils and books were my best friends at that time, and I still love to create through any medium.
    So, thank you for this reminder of what the dear Son of God did for us.
    And, by the way, I think the painting would have had an entirely different impression (on this young child) had Dali displayed the usual graphic injuries.
    God’s Best to you.


    Dear Lou Ciccanti,
    Thank you very much for a well-fitting devotional of depth of spiritual impact.
    The picture of Jesus on the cross makes a deep and I expect lasting impression. It is unusual in crucifixion art. Thanks for including it.
    Keep writing.

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