Passion du Christ, 1954
Bernard Buffet (1928-1999)
These two images are part of a series of twenty-one engravings created to illustrate excerpts from the Bible entitled La Passion du Christ and published by Creuzevault Editeur in Paris in 1954.
The first image shows a deposition scene. Christ has been removed from the cross and the nails used to crucify him are lying on the ground together with the pliers used to extract them. Also lying around him are other traditional symbols of the passion: the dice thrown by the soldiers to decide who would get his purple robe; the bowl of sour wine into which hyssop was dipped to give Jesus a drink; the ladder used to reach him – but also a symbol of Christ himself as a bridge between earth and heaven. In the background the railway tracks offer a sinister echo of the deportation of French Jews from France to their deaths.
The image is unusual in that most deposition scenes involve others. Christ’s aloneness here is absolute, evoking another of Buffet’s early images, ‘Horrors of War’.
In the second image the three crosses are in the background, against the same backdrop. In the foreground are the nails and the crown of thorns. The cloth on which they are spread is suggestive, giving the objects a significance and a place as they have had in Christian devotion through the centuries. The design of the cloth is reminiscent of a Jewish prayer shawl, making the connection between Christ’s suffering as a Jewish man and the suffering of the Holocaust – or perhaps hinting at the table spread in the wilderness at which Christ gives himself to be our food.