The crucifixion marks the most important stage of the Stations of the Cross narrated in the Gospels and is, along with Jesus’ death, the center of all Christian theology, which views this death as an atoning sacrifice, thus constituting not only the climax of the Passion, but also the form of the cross as an icon that identifies Christianity.
Its presence in the Gospels manifests itself as a description of the torture, and it is thanks to subsequent images created by artists that the cross and the crucified Jesus constitute one of the most recognizable images in the West.
Botero directly addresses the theme of Jesus crucified in the Stations of the Cross through three large-scale oil paintings: Jesus Nailed to the Cross (2011), Crucifixion with Soldier (2010) and Crucifixion (2011), and two drawings titled Crucifixion made in 2010 and 2011. The oil painting Crucifixion features an eerie and monumental crucified Jesus in New York’s Central Park, where the exhibition was first shown in 2011 and where Botero has lived permanently for more than 12 years. This piece sums all the most characteristic features of Botero’s work, with obvious differences in scale and restrained use of color, as well as all the characteristics associated with the works of this particular series.
Crucifixion, the collection’s centerpiece, is faithful to the tradition in which several painters portrayed scenes from the Passion of Christ in situations that were representative of their everyday lives or landscapes. Because it linked the image to the context of the community in which it was created, this increased its relevance. The outcome offers variations and nuances on the subject matter referred to as “invocations.” The fact that life goes on and the people strolling through the park appear to be blind and unaware in spite of the figure’s monumentality and the drama’s magnitude is striking, which reinforces the feeling of lack of empathy for other people’s suffering that characterizes many of the works in the collection.
Another common feature of the works depicting the crucifixion is their austerity, especially in the drawings in which Botero depicts only the figures while avoiding any allusion to the context, as in the case of an actor during a theatrical rehearsal without a set. Another way to describe the foreground would be its almost cinematic style, such in the 2011 oil painting The Nails.