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SUNDAY REVELATIONS: EASTER: Seeing Art in Death

CLICKME for Gopnik's essay comparing the images of death of Jesus vs. Gaddafi

Pornography is only part of the story of these two pictures.

Blake Gopnik

To my Christian-trained eyes, there’s huge pathos in these images, regardless of the monster they show. Since the Middle Ages at least, Western image-making has had the sight of greatness, cast down and bloodied, right at its heart. Before any war was caught in pictures, before any artist had even painted a subject from life, Europeans already had images of a great figure – the Christ himself, King of Kings and God of Gods, as Handel has us sing in Messiah – tortured and strung up and then finally slaughtered. It goes without saying that Gaddafi himself was perfectly evil and un-Christ-like. Anyone who believes in hell imagines him there now. But our Western eyes aren’t as smart as our morals: They see those photos of Gaddafi, alive and suffering and then as a blasted corpse, and head straight to the crucifixion scenes that are the bedrock of our visual culture.


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