It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-45
When Jesus hung on the cross and bore God’s heavy, holy wrath for the sins of the whole world in His perfect body and soul, creation seemed unable to comprehend what was happening. The sun went dark, the earth shook, rocks split, tombs were opened… His sacrificial death was so radical, so against how things are ‘supposed’ to be!
The drama of that moment is captured here in Gustave Dore’s illustration. Christ is silhouetted against the last rays of light peeking through the gathering darkness. The soldiers’ horses freak out. His followers cling to the bottom of
the cross, mourning. The composition almost seems to surge inward and outward – the clouds shrinking the eye in toward Christ, the single beam of shooting light and the outward multi-directional movement of the horses pushing the eye back out. Everything is moving except for Christ, so that is where the eye lingers, meditating on His radical sacrifice.
Dore was an artist of many different media but had the most success in his time and has the most lasting impact through his wood-engraved illustrations. You can see the wood grain in this work – it adds a layer of texture and movement to the clouds and ground. He started out as a teenager working as an illustrator/cartoonist for a newspaper and went on to illustrate many great classic works of literature, including the Bible. “Dore Bibles” were everywhere. His illustrations are full of energy and drama that pull the viewer into the story – especially the greatest story ever told, of God’s complete and surprising work of salvation.
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