Crucify Him (1994)

Ivan Glazunov (1969)

Art facts:

  • Artist: Ivan Ilyich Glazunov
  • Currently аt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow.
  • This work is linked to Matthew 27:23–25

About the Artist:

            Ivan Ilyich Glazunov, a Russian painter, was born October 13, 1969, in Moscow. His father, Glazunov Ilya Sergeevich, and mother, Vinogradova-Benoit Nina Alexandrovna, were both artists.

            In 1988-1994 Glazunov studied at the Moscow Art Theater named after V.I. Surikov, in the studio of the portrait of Professor I.S. Glazunov. In 1994-1996 he was an assistant trainee at the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, then became a teacher at the Academy. During 1996-1999 was an Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Composition of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Since 1997, he still leads the workshop of historical painting. In 1999 he received the title of professor.

Professor, Head of the Department of Historical Painting of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture I. S. Glazunov. Glazunov became an Honored Artist of the Russian Federation in 1998 and a full member of the Russian Academy of Arts in 2007. The works of Ivan Glazunov are in public and private collections in Russia and abroad.

            Since 2001, he has led the group of artists of RAZHViZ, who, according to his sketches, perform murals of the Assumption of the Virgin Church in Verkhnyaya Pyshma near Yekaterinburg.

About the painting:

            At the beginning of his career, Ivan Glazunov created the iconic painting “Crucify him!” to capture the moment of Christ’s betrayal to the death penalty. On the canvas is Christ, in a bloody robe and a crown of thorns. In silent solitude, he confronts a roaring crowd of Jews and Roman guards. The governor said, “What evil has he done? But they shouted even more strongly: let him be crucified.” Pilate, seeing that nothing helped, but the confusion was increasing, took water and washed his hands before the people, and said, “I am innocent in the blood of this Righteous One; you look.” And, answering, all the people said, “His blood is on us and on our children” (Matt 27: 23-25).

            There are many paintings on this topic, but none of them show an explicit confrontation between Jesus Christ and the people of Israel. In this art,  Christ stands high above the crowd; he is alone; there is no one nearby, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers are far away. The people around are agitated, their mouths are open in screaming, and their hands are reaching out to Christ. It seems that if left alone with the crowd, people will pounce Him with waving sticks and commit an unjust judgment. That is why such interpretations are needed to awaken the conscience of people. It is easy to look for the guilty somewhere out there in foreign nations and the past centuries, but it is difficult to ask from oneself – where would you be if Christ were judged today? In the crowd of those who persecute Him, or with Him on the platform of judgment, and then in torment on the cross? Canvas “Crucify Him!” Christ, tormented, in a crown of thorns and torn robe, asks: “What will you choose – the path of Truth or the path of betrayal?”

  1. Christ in a purple robe is a symbol of royal clothing and a crown of thorns. Before pronouncing the final judgment on Jesus, the Roman soldiers mockingly wove a crown of thorns for Him, put it on His head, clothed Him in a purple robe, and said, “Hail, King of the Jews! And they beat Him on the cheeks” (John 19: 2–3).
  2. Five days before the execution, when Christ was enthusiastically greeted in Jerusalem with palm branches as the victorious king, the same crowd gleefully shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9).
  3. Pilate shows the people the already beaten, as if punished, Christ, saying “Behold the Man!,” claiming that He is not a king, and therefore, innocent. When the chief priests and ministers saw Him, they cried out, “Crucify, crucify Him!” Pilate says to them, “Take him you, and crucify him; for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law, He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Pilate, hearing this word, was more afraid (John 19: 6-8). After that, Pilate, suspecting that this accused’s case was more complicated than the Jews had presented to him, took Jesus to the praetorium (his residence) and tried to find out where from did Jesus come. But He did not answer.

            The scroll in Pilate’s hands is a letter from his wife Claudia Procula, in which she asks not to put Christ to death, “do nothing to the Righteous One, because now in my sleep I suffered a lot for Him” (Matt 27:19). It further strengthened the procurator’s conviction that Christ must be released. But the crowd, incited by the high priests, shouted, “If you let Him go, you are not a friend to Caesar” (John 19:12), the ruler of the Roman Empire, and the procurator yielded, fearing that he would be accused of conniving at the state criminal.

  1. Centurion Longinus supervised the execution and a detachment of soldiers, ensuring that the crucified were not taken down from the crosses. Usually, such an execution caused death within a few days, but Christ “gave up the ghost” after a few hours. To make sure of His death, the centurion, according to the testimony of the Evangelist John who was present at the time, pierced His ribs with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out (John 19:34). And another evangelist adds: But the centurion and those who watched Jesus with him, seeing the earthquake and everything that happened, were terrified and said, “verily He was the Son of God” (Matt 27:54). According to legend, after the Savior’s resurrection, Longinus preached Christianity and was martyred for this.
  2. Servant holding a book of laws. Pilate knew that Christ was innocent according to Roman legal norms and wanted to prove this to the Jews.
  3. Jews shouting, “Crucify him!” The governor said, “What evil has he done?” But they shouted even more strongly, “Let him be crucified.” Pilate, seeing that nothing was helping, but the confusion was increasing, took water and washed his hands before the people, and said, “I am innocent in the blood of this Righteous One; you look.” Answering all the people said, “His blood is on us and on our children” (Matt 27: 23-25).
  4. A Jew putting his thumb down is an artist’s reference to gladiatorial battles, during which the emperor let the crowd decide the fate of the loser. If people raised their thumbs, the gladiator remained alive. If they lowered them, they killed him.
  5. Sadducee is a representative of an influential religious party in Ancient Judea. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, recognized only the laws given in the Pentateuch (Torah), rejecting all other Jewish customs. They were considered the most implacable enemy.