Vasily Vereshchagin: A Crucifixion in the Time of the Romans

Russian painting sells for $2.7 mln The picture Crucifixion by the Romans by great Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin was sold for a record sum of $2.7mln. at the Christies’ Russian auction in London. This painting is one of three in which the artist reflected on capital punishment. (Voice of Russia)
Vasily Vereshchagin, (Russian, 1842-1904). A Crucifixion in the Time of the Romans, 1887. Oil on canvas, 116 x 156 in. (294.6 x 396.2 cm).
Crucifixion by the Romans is a wonderful example of Vereshchagin’s passion for late 19th-century European academic painting. Theatrically staged in 1st-century A.D. Jerusalem, the picture is typical of the dramatic historical spectacles—here of capital punishment under the Roman Empire—that wowed period audiences across Europe and America. Today the painting continues to impress the viewer with its monumentality and academic exoticism or Orientalism, which Vereshchagin learned firsthand in Paris from the style’s principal exponent, Jean-Léon Gérôme. In preparation for the painting, Vereshchagin completed a series of architectural and ethnographic studies on site in Palestine; this endowed his work with an awesome sense of realism. Crucifixion is not, however, an example of Russian avant-garde painting—the focus of Brooklyn’s collection— which in Vereshchagin’s own lifetime meant critical depictions of modern Russian society or Critical Realism. (The Museum owns two iconic Critical Realist paintings by Vereshchagin of the Russo-Turkish War, A Resting Place of Prisoners and The Road of the War Prisoners, both now on view in Russian Modern.) Crucifixion by the Romans is a powerful expression of Vereshchagin’s foray into Orientalism, and as such it merits greater study and exposure than it could get here, where it was last on view in 1932. ...


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