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The shock and awe of the Röttgen Pietà

Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Gothic art sought to create an impact. The Röttgen Pietà, sculpted in wood circa 1300 and now in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, succeeded in spades. It was created expressly to evoke an emotional response in its viewers. What did they feel when they saw it? Shock, awe, terror, horror, disgust, distaste, fear, fascination… It’s obvious that this Christ clearly died from his crucifixion, but it’s also obvious that this undernourished man led a hard life. The message is that he’s one of us mediaeval folk.

Then, there’s Mary. What does her expression convey? Traditionally, she’s often depicted at peace because she’s aware of the impending Resurrection so her son’s death, while tragic, is temporary. This Mary, however, appears to be bewildered and aggrieved There’s no hint that she’ll see her son alive again. Again, the intent of the artist is to show that God and his mother experienced enormous pain and suffering.

Röttgen Pietà

Our week of pietà meditations began on Monday in Spain and that’s where it will end tomorrow with another graphic work that seeks to get viewers to feel a personal connection to the pain and death of the divine as painted by “El Divino”.


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