Palm Sunday

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem

Imagine being on the route of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, being a believer and laying down palms in front of Christ. Imagine the joy, the excitement, the energy, not knowing what was coming- only knowing what was happening in that moment. The topic of Christ's journey into the city is one that has fascinated artists for centuries, but not nearly at the same level as Jesus' crucifixion or the Last Supper. And why is that? Could it be because a journey, a trip, is commonplace? Because riding a donkey isn't as striking as three crosses on a hill?

Gustave Doré focused a number of his pieces on Palm Sunday. The painting below is one such example. Christie's website includes the following in its description of Doré's "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem,"

His paintings, often large format, can be considered a link between Romanticism and Symbolism, and he explored such monumental themes as the fate of mankind and the horrors of war.
Doré is known to have painted several versions of this subject, the largest of which, measuring an impressive 20 x 30 feet, was exhibited at the Paris salon of 1876. The present painting, a preparatory sketch, is handled in a much freer and looser manner...

To compare the scale of Doré's final painting, Guernica by Pablo Picasso measures 11 feet tall and 25.6 feet wide, and the Mona Lisa is just about 2.5 feet by 2 feet. Doré used sketches to build his final work, just as students write rough-drafts before the final paper, and adults revise emails over and over before hitting send. The journey is part of the final result, and we each have our own journeys, just as Christ had his. The preparatory sketch below, which contributed to the large-scale work from 1876, invites the viewer on the journey. We see a dark figure in the middle (Jesus) and the green path of palms leading to where he is. The crowd bows, cheers, and waves flags to celebrate his arrival. Consider your own journey, and how you journey with Christ, as we continue through Holy Week. Where would you be in this painting?

Sources: - post on Palm Sunday in Art, Christie's listing for Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Gustave Doré (Strasbourg 1832-1883 Paris)

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