Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Munkácsy Mihály~The Christ Trilogy

Christ Before Pilate ~ 1882

Golgotha ~ 1884

Ecce Homo ~ 1896

An idea of the scale of the paintings approx 20 x 12 feet

I love large paintings and murals. Saw Rembrandt's The Night Watch at the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam, and of course the large scale industrial photos of Edward Burtynsky in Toronto and the documentary about him by Jennifer Bachwal in Manufactured Landscapes

But the one I love most, even more than the Sistine Chapel, is the Munkácsy Mihály Christ Trilogy which was recently exhibited at the National Gallery of Hungary in Budapest. These paintings, by famed Hungarian painter Munkácsy Mihály, (born Michael von Lieb) were only exhibited once before in the Deri museum in Debrecen in 1996, when Chloe, Arune, Raven and I visited Hungary, and therein lies a story.

Munkácsy Mihály~The Christ Trilogy were painted from 1881-1896. The painter, who most likely died of syphilis at the age of 56, suffered from mental illness in his later life, yet still managed to draw in vivid detail that almost looked like he was there.. 

The paintings were not done in chronological order, so you have Christ Before Pilate (1882) Golgotha (1884) and Ecce Homo (1896), with the crucifixion as the middle, and not the final painting. I have a book of his paintings, with detailed close ups of all the figures. There is Christ brought before Pilate for judgement, then the crucifixion at Golgotha, then the final, in which Pilate pleads with the crowd out to crucify Jesus, ecce homo, or, behold the man. In each of those paintings you see the woman who is Mary Magdalene, holding their child in the first, crouched at his feet with Mary, his mother in the second, and gazing in horror as he is about to be condemned to death in the final painting, Ecce Homo. Look at the other faces, and I recognize them, and the look on their faces. The resistance to change, the fear and hatred. I once met the soldier that was the guard at Golgotha, and that shook me.

Golgotha was the second, and not the last painting, because on it he drew a man on a white horse, and that, is the symbol of of resurrection, already there, already here.

But it is the last one, that is the true culmination of the trilogy. He is being judged, but those that judge, are also being judged. And judgement awaits all.

But the real story was outside, as we left the museum. A homeless man, mentally ill, sitting in the street. So I sat down with him, because I knew he was the artist Munkácsy Mihály, returned. Gave him some money and we left.

Chloe said to me as we walked off, "do you know what he kept saying, over and over again?" (It was in Hungarian)  "He said 'he is here, he is here. He walks the earth'!"

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