Cultural Center of the Philippines



1957 / Wood / Figure 274 cm; cross 4.27 x 3.66 cm / Artist: Napoleon Abueva / Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice, University of the Philippines Diliman

In this religious subject, Abueva interprets a crucial tenet of Christian doctrineβ€”the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Crucifix renders Christ’s crucifixion as the pivotal event between life and death, suffering and glory, humanity and divinity, temporality and eternity. Two frontal figures, stylistically distorted into a 10-head length proportion, hang back to back on one cross: the Dead Christ on one side and the Risen Christ on the other.

Although Abueva reduces his sculpted images into basic planes and shapes to bring out only the most elemental forms, he nevertheless ably achieves realism within the context of a contemporary art idiom.

The Dead Christ successfully communicates the message of strength in suffering. Christ’s hair, upturned from the nape, droops to totally hide the face, emoting a feeling of defeat and loneliness. Pain and forbearance are interpreted through the delineation of recesses and complexities of muscle and sinew in the outstretched arms, the chiseled ribmarks on a full chest vis-Γ -vis a depressed abdomen, a lean groin accentuated by a simple cloth, and contracted thighs and legs. Christ’s oversized palms echo the downward movement of the drooping head, showing a subtle feeling of tension.

Full humanity is expressed in the naked figure, while the glorious divinity of the Risen Christ is successfully depicted through the serene, symmetrical verticality of the figure in a full tunic, which underscores Christ’s purity and priesthood.

Suspended from the dome of the circular edifice that is the Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the double crucifix by Abueva was a first in church art executed in neorealist style and illuminated by sunlight filtered through a hole in the circular dome that suggests the firmament.