Friday, February 12, 2021

Oaxaca. Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan: The Descent from the Cross

In our ongoing series on the art works at the great Dominican Priory of Yanhuitlan, here we focus on the theme of the Deposition or Descent from the Cross.
Two outstanding illustrations of this theme are found at Yanhuitlan, the first a painted alabaster relief in the Sagrario chapel adjoining the main church. Originally of untreated stone possibly with gold accents, it was overpainted in bright colors probably in the mid 1600s or later.
The crowded scene is notable for participants wearing moorish costumes including turbans.
Another related relief can be seen at SS Pedro y Pablo Teposcolula in the priory church, where it occupies a focal position in the main altarpiece.

The second depiction at Yanhuitlan is in the main altarpiece and is a painting documented as by the eminent Sevillian artist Andrés de Concha - one of five in the altarpiece.
   Here the Descent from the Cross depicts Jesus’s followers Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus taking his dead body down from the cross. The body of Jesus is stiff and his rigid arms remain straight even after removal from the cross
beam. Below, female followers hold Jesus’ feet, and Mary, overwhelmed with grief, collapses in the foreground. 
   The composition is characterized by a high placement of the crossbeam and by diagonals created by the lateral ladders.
   Recently restored it is the crowning painting in the altarpiece, underlining with its companion, its importance in the Easter rituals at Yanhuitlan.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
with acknowledgments to Alessia Frassani 

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