Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chiapas. El Calvario: The Mystic Vintage

We follow our posts on the altarpieces of Chiapas with a look at two unusual and historical paintings in other churches of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. First, at El Calvario chapel, and then in the church of San Francisco.
Hidden away in a shady courtyard behind the church of La Merced stands the little 18th century chapel of El Calvario. Like other barrio chapels in the city, its plain, brick and stucco facade is surmounted by an attractive espadaña belfry ornamented with volutes and pyramidal merlons. 
A relief of the Calvary cross with the instruments of the Passion is emblazoned at its apex.
The Mystic Vintage painting before and after restoration
Inside the chapel, the most intriguing colonial artifact is a recently restored painting of the Mystic Vintage, locally known as the Christ of Redemption. 
Christ bows under the weight of the cross in a stormy landscape with the hill of Calvary in the background, bleeding profusely into a winepress, while God the Father at right tightens the screw.
© Niccolo Brooker
The figures of St. Joseph and the Virgin of Sorrows kneel on either side while below, angels collect the precious blood in a chalice.
This remarkable and rare portrayal is a fairly faithful reproduction, in vibrant reds and blues, of a famous print by the Flemish artist and engraver Hieronymus Wierix. 
   Although no inscription appears on the El Calvario painting, a Latin caption on the Wierix print reads: Torcular calcavi solus 
et de gentibus non est vir mecum, a partial quote from Isaiah 63: 
" I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me... for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment."
    This stern Old Testament prophesy was further popularized in the Book of Revelation, (14:19) " So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God." The theme was recycled again in the old apocalyptic favorite, The Battle Hymn of the Republic: "... He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.." 

text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and Niccolò Brooker

1 comment:

  1. Remarkable painting. What is the effect of tightening the screw? Further pressing the grapes?