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Eustache Le Sueur, Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saints

Key facts
Full title Christ on the Cross with the Magdalen, the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist
Artist Eustache Le Sueur
Artist dates 1616 - 1655
Date made about 1643
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 109 × 73.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1994
Inventory number NG6548
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saints
Eustache Le Sueur

Le Sueur shows us a moment described in the Gospel of John, when Christ speaks to his mother, the Virgin Mary, and his disciple, Saint John the Evangelist, just before he dies. Opposite them kneels Mary Magdalene, her hands clasped together in prayer. Their expressions, mouths slightly open and eyes widened in disbelief as they stare up at Christ, convey tension and grief.

Behind them, darkening clouds add to the sombre mood. A strong light comes from the right, revealing the soft, pale tones of Christ’s body and the vibrancy of the figures' robes. Le Sueur creates dramatic effect by placing the figures within a narrow space, with the viewer directly in front of the Cross and level with them.

This composition was inspired by an earlier version created in Simon Vouet’s (1590–1649) studio, which is where Le Sueur had received his training. Le Sueur was developing his own style, and the way he experiments with facial expression and hand gestures to convey emotion in this painting distinguishes him from his master.

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