Crucifixion and crucifixes have appeared in the arts and popular culture from before the era of the pagan Roman Empire. The crucifixion of Jesus has been depicted in religious art since the 4th century CE. In more modern times, crucifixion has appeared in film and television as well as in fine art, and depictions of other historical crucifixions have appeared as well as the crucifixion of Christ. Modern art and culture have also seen the rise of images of crucifixion being used to make statements unconnected with Christian iconography, or even just used for shock value.
Crucifixion scenes have a long and distinguished history in Western art, from the earliest Byzantine and Gothic works to late-Renaissance masterpieces by Michelangelo and El Greco.
Crucifixion has appeared repeatedly as a theme in many forms of modern art.
The surrealist Salvador Dali painted Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus), representing the cross as a hypercube. The sculpture Construction (Crucifixion): Homage to Mondrian, by Barbara Hepworth, stands on the grounds of Winchester Cathedral. Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's 1975 self-portrait shows the artist, nude and smiling, posed as if crucified. The 1983 painting Crucifixion, by Nabil Kanso, employs a perspective that places the viewer behind Christ's cross. In 1987 photographer Andres Serrano created Piss Christ, a controversial photograph that shows a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine, in which Serrano intended to depict sympathetically the abuse of Jesus by his executioners.
Other artists have used crucifixion imagery as a form of protest. In 1974, Chris Burden had himself crucified to a Volkswagen. Robert Cenedella painted a crucified Santa Claus as a protest against Christmas commercialization, displayed in the window of New York's Art Students League in December 1997. In August 2000, performance artist Sebastian Horsley had himself crucified without the use of any analgesics.
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La palabra griega para "cruz" (stauros) literalmente denota una estaca o poste levantado y aguzado; la palabra xylon es usualmente "madera" o "árbol".
Jesús de Nazaret no fue el primer crucificado. Antes que él otros muchos infortunados murieron en cruces. La arqueología, la exégesis y la historia han aportado en los últimos años importantes evidencias sobre como se desarrolló la condena a muerte por crucifixión.
En Europa y Asia no aparece el "signo de la cruz" como distintivo cristiano, al menos hasta el siglo IV. Hasta entonces los cristianos utilizaban otros símbolos, como el cordero divino (imagen originada en el cordero expiatorio del Pentateuco, utilizado por los judíos en su Éxodo a la Tierra Prometida).
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