Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday Masterpiece: Procession on Good Friday by Darío de Regoyos y Valdés

The first post (finally!) of what I hope will be a long tradition of presenting artworks and some of my amateur art-lover thoughts on them.

If you’re slightly put off by the above image and find it unexciting….keep reading (though if it sparks your interest, keep reading also).

That was also my first response to this work when I saw it at the Musee de l’Orangerie’s exhibit on Spain titled L’Espagne Entre Deux Siecles.On second glance, I was convinced that this was a very clever piece of artwork. In fact, it’s a brilliant illustration of the way in which a painter can use a composition to turn objects and people into ideas. 

This painting symbolizes three ages in history. Below, the procession of the monks, that is the Middle Ages, a time of faith.  Above it is a Roman bridge – the distinctive rounded arch is a feature of Roman and Romanesque architecture. It symbolizes both ancient Rome and the Renaissance – both times of thought and scientific advancement. And above that, the locomotive symbolizes the modern age, the Industrial Revolution. It’s no coincidence that the train is speeding along on the bridge: after all, the advancements of the Industrial Revolution could not have happened without the Renaissance, without the re-awakening of knowledge. And so the technological progress of the nineteenth century is here, quite literally, supported by earlier ideas, an earlier scientific age.

This sort of vertical composition also implies a hierarchy. Though the painting is titled The procession of Good Friday, the procession – and belief, which it represents – are found in the bottom part of the painting. Both the bridge and the locomotive tower above it, literally. The train blows its steam into an iridescently blue sky, an ethereal blue that contrasts with the dry, dead yellow color of the ground. That steam resembles clouds, as if man had made his way to the sky and reached the clouds. And indeed, a few decades later, man would learn to fly and airplanes would overtake trains.

This is a particularly interesting idea in the context it was in: the exhibit I found the painting in was focused on Spain “between two centuries,” the nineteenth and the twentieth. It was a time of turmoil as the nation simultaneously clung to the past and looked to the future. Here, we see a response to that turmoil, and a hint of the future. 


  1. Interesting...

    New follower :-)

    TToria @

  2. Hi and welcome! Good to have you here and thanks for following :)

  3. Great post! The painting is arresting and unsettling while your commentary provides context. Looking forward to the next installment.

  4. Hmm...unsettling is not the word that came to mind when I chanced upon this piece of art. What, for you, makes it unsettling?

  5. The perspective seems off, sort of like watching a standard screen TV show in widescreen. It's a personal quirk that's hard to explain. Basically, my brain recognizes that something is off but can't compensate and I get agitated.

  6. That's seems completely normal to me. (Cue me staring at the painting for long periods of time to attempt to see it with the perspective off).

  7. Opps, I said perspective when I meant proportion ... I think. Whatever, there is just something "off" about the image. It's certainly not something I'd hang on my wall.