El Cristo de la sangre (Bleeding Christ)

Ignacio Zuloaga

Eibar, Guipuzcoa, Spain, 1870 - Madrid, Spain, 1945
  • Date: 
    1911 (Segovia)
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    248 x 302 cm
  • Category: 
  • Entry date: 
  • Observations: 
    Entry date: 1988 (from the redistribution of the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo [MEAC] collection)
  • Register number: 

The greatest representative of the Basque School, as well as one of its most international members, Ignacio Zuloaga achieved extensive recognition in the early twentieth century thanks to his characteristic landscapes, portraits and folk scenes. In this final group, his innovations in terms of composition are not unrelated to the achievements of the new artistic expressions of the period. This can be seen in El Cristo de la sangre (Bleeding Christ, 1911), where the central theme shares focus with the motifs depicted in the background, conceived as a stage or photographic backdrop. However, in conceptual terms, Zuloaga’s work is usually interpreted within the framework of the debates which helped shape the Generation of ‘98. Some of his paintings have been understood as true emblems of this reflection on the Spanish condition and its potential for regeneration and El Cristo de la sangre is perhaps the greatest example of Zuloaga’s association with the spirit of this Generation of ‘98. However, paradoxically, this canvas received a great deal of recognition from the most forward-looking artistic circles of the time. When it was exhibited at the 1912 Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts Salon in Paris, this piece was warmly received by Guillaume Apollinaire, a die-hard defender of new trends. On 13 April of that same year, Apollinaire wrote the following remarks in the iconic newspaper L’Intransigeant: “[…] Lastly, the Cristo de la sangre, with its gaunt figures in the style of El Greco, the candles, the pale and bleeding Christ­ with his woman’s hair, is quite an accurate image of the mystical and sensual religion that underlies beliefs­ in a Spain where they continue to hold processions of flagellants and where the joy of pain can still transport souls as it did in the time of St Teresa. Nonetheless, this painting with its mystical tendencies gives absolutely no sense of the inspiration that drove the Candiot, whose highly restrained works combine the beauty of Hellenism with all the splendour of the Christian religion. Having made this caveat, one is more comfortable with praising the qualities found in Zuloaga’s work.”

Paloma Esteban Leal