Our Lady at the Cross

by Isabella Childs January 08, 2021

death of Our Lord

   This is a depiction of the scene of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, by nineteenth-century French painter, James Jacques Tissot.

    The three crosses, belonging to Christ and the two thieves crucified with Him, are arrayed in a semicircle such that the thief to Christ’s right is positioned at the front left of the painting, and Christ and the thief to Christ’s left are further behind. Christ and the thief to His right both face the right side of the painting, while the thief to Christ’ left faces forwards.

    Jesus, nailed to the cross, inclines His head in death. The Savior’s skin is white. A few streams of blood run down his chest and limbs. He wears a bloodied white cloth around His waist and a crown of thorns on His head. A small rectangular sign is nailed above the Savior’s head. 

    The two thieves are tied to their crosses by ropes around their arms and legs. While the vertical section of Christ’s cross extends above the Savior’s head, the crosses belonging to the thieves are each in the shape of a capital “T”. Each of the thieves wears a brown square cloth tied by rope around his neck and a similar cloth tied by rope around his waist. The thieves also wear small yellow turbans on their heads. The thieves have dull brown skin.

    Saint John stands at the foot of Christ’s cross, on the right side, gazing up at His Divine Master. He wears a white robe, a white mantle, and sandals. The apostle's right arm is wrapped around the cross. With his left hand, he touches a white cloth to Christ’s bloody feet.

    Mary Magdalen kneels on the ground at the foot of the cross on the left side. She places her left hand and her head against the cross. Her back faces the viewer of the painting. Mary Magdalen has long red hair which flows to the ground from beneath her blue, yellow, and green hair scarf. Mary Magdalen wears a light blue dress and a dark, blue-gray cloak which hangs from her left shoulder.

    Facing Christ and standing side by side, with their profiles to the viewer of the painting, are three women, including the Blessed Mother. The women lean on each other for support. The woman on the left wears a large black cloak over her head and body. The white veils of the other two women are visible as well as part of their arms. The Virgin Mary stands between the two other women. The Sorrowful Mother compassionately extends her arms to her Son on the cross. The woman on Mary's right side wraps her left arm around the Blessed Mother.

    The ground on which the crosses and the women are positioned is composed of white stone. Behind the crosses are a few mounds of white stones. Three men stand behind one of these stone mounds behind Christ, on the left side of the painting. The men wear robes and turbans which are pale shades of orange, yellow, white, and gray. Two more Jewish men are barely visible behind a stone mound situated between and behind the crosses belonging to Christ and the thief on Christ’s left. A centurion, wearing silver armor, a helmet, and a red cloak around his neck and shoulders, sits on a stone mound behind and to the right of the thief on Christ’s left and turns his head, gazing at Christ.

Behind the figures, in the background of the painting, is a strip of brown land. Small white buildings are visible on the brown land. Beyond the brown land are some low, gray hills. The thread-like outlines of white roads run through the gray hills. The sky is painted a cloudy gray. On the right side of the painting there is a patch of yellow just above the horizon.

    Download this digitally-restored image.

Isabella Childs
Isabella Childs


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