The artwork The Crucifixion of St. Andrew (1650-1659) by Luca Giordano stands out among others with its dark colors and unusual scene of a crucified man. It could have gotten lost among the others, but the artist was able to create an ideal work through visual and formal characteristics. The most important thing is how he used color and composition for this aesthetic effect on the audience since it has no bright elements to attract attention at all. This essay maintains that the artist uses dark colors based on contrasts without mixing them inscribing the narrative into a three-dimensional space and provoking the viewer to relive the drama in such a way.
Giorgione depicts the crucifixion of St. Andrew by the Roman soldiers, one of Christ’s disciples. This story narrates about the apostle’s suffering because of his faith and belief; therefore, it was important to convey these emotions and create a drama due to the formal effects. He used oil for this work, which affects the appearance of the picture: By utilizing this material and technique, he achieved a maximum realism in the context of psychological effect forcing the audience to experience the story as a real one.
The most impressive thing is how Giorgione has painted St. Andrew: he lifts his hands up to God asking for His Kingdom as Jesus did it before his death. It is important that the work has a medium size, and it makes the scene more realistic and truthful since the figures are identical to human proportions. In this case, the elements of the scene are placed to create an effect of physical presence. Hence, Giorgione also cut the scene and depicted the incomplete figures on the left corner. Besides, he did not paint St. Andrew in the center. Consequently, the artist did not want to create an ideal composition because the event takes place in the present moment, and the viewer becomes an involuntary witness here.
The artist uses formal elements to achieve an atmosphere of suffering and ascension creating a situation for the ambivalent feelings. This paradoxical effect requires a special artistic technique because it is important to convey different emotional states of the characters. Thus, dark colors dominate on the painting including black, brown, and marsh tones. It seems that the work has a faded texture because it has been laying in the basement for several years. However, the artists used white as the only light which contrasts with a dark palette. Giorgione used it to cover faces, sky, and the body of St. Andrew. In fact, the figure of the Apostle stands out thanks to the skillful use of white which adds the realistic accents into the image.
The artist used diagonal and curved lines for making an effect of movement. At the same time, St. Andrew is static. However, Giorgione tried to underline his invisible agony due to the diagonal lines. As a result, the artist created a three-dimensional space to create the naturalistic characters. For example, it is noticeable how he depicted the body of St. Andrew: the anatomical details (muscles, ribs, old hands), his pose and clothes as well as the shadow on the body. The artist has achieved this truthful effect through the contrast between light and dark tones. Interacting with each other, the shades of colors convey different aspects of the emotions of the characters.
Giorgione balanced the special elements in the composition to create a dynamic and expressive moment of the crucifixion where the figure of St. Andrew is the main focus of the composition. It is not accidental that the artist depicted a crucifix in the midpoint because he urges the viewer to perceive the suffering directly. He united the elements into one integrated system, and they relate to each other in the idea of suffering.
The work looks symmetrical although there are some imbalanced elements: Giorgione depicted four figures on the right, and two characters on the left. Nevertheless, he achieved harmony in the composition mirroring the movements of Andrew’s followers. However, the artists painted the apostle in a shifted position, so the viewer sees it from the side not the front. Using this manner, Giorgione provokes the viewer to take a position of observer similar to St. Andrew’s followers experiencing emotional shock. Therefore, scale and proportion of the figures are very close to reality.
In conclusion, the formal characteristics help to understand better what the artist depicted. I have realized that Giorgione used dark and gloom colors to create an oppressive situation of suffering, and thus, the viewer has a chance to clearly see a moment of death. On the other hand, the artist used white color to create a real scale of his characters expressing their feelings through the contrasts and dynamics. The idea is to place the viewer near the cross, on the site of St. Andrew’s followers provoking to feel the similar emotions. It seems that Giorgione asks: what would you have felt if you were in this situation? Therefore, the whole scene resembles a theatrical setting for playing real emotions of a human.