Friday, 18 September 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 6.

In our figure 2 will be found at a a drawing which gives the general appearance of the wounds ; next to it, at b, is a reproduction of the probable shape of the piece of metal with which such blows could have been inflicted. About eighteen such wounds may be distinguished on the sacrum, or fleshy parts in the vicinity of the pelvis. These white marks show plainly on Plate v. On Plate iv., which was executed from a different photographic print, they are not so visible. But on the proofs on glass, sent me by M. Pia, the dumb-bell shaped markings are quite apparent, just as we have described them, when looked at transparently.

If, however, the shape of these marks be considered curious, their general distribution and direction in relation to the body are not less interesting. The wounds on the back may be divided into two series. Some, and these are the more numerous, are obliquely marked from top to bottom and from left to right (see Plate v.).

They correspond to the direction in which the weapon of the scourger would have descended upon the body were he standing on the left and in the rear of the sufferer. The other series, visible especially on the left shoulder and left side of the back, point in an opposite direction, as if the wielder of the scourge had been standing behind, and on the right of his victim.

The general disposition of the wounds visible on the fleshy parts is also remarkable. They group themselves in a sort of sheaf having a horizontal axis, on each side of which the marks spread outwards.

Blows leaving such marks as these would have been inflicted by a short stick, furnished with a number of thongs, to the ends of which were attached metal buttons. With such a weapon the thongs themselves would not cut the skin, as they would have done without the metal buttons; for these metal buttons would strike the flesh before the thongs could reach it, and immediately after the stroke the scourger would draw back his arm, and lift the thongs in so doing. It may also be noticed that the marks on the back are in an upward direction, while those on the calves are the reverse, as if the scourge had struck the back obliquely from below, upwards ; the fleshy parts are marked horizontally, and the calves obliquely, but the strokes in this case are from above, downwards. These marks can all be reproduced by the arm circling from the shoulder, as is done in sprinkling water with a brush.

It is hardly worth while to emphasize how very unlikely it is that any artist having to reproduce the marks of scourging on a human body could have imagined a system of scars so complicated as that which we have here indicated ; each kind of mark would have required special attention, special invention, and we all know how difficult it is to repeat over and over again a representation which, while preserving the same general form, should show infinite variety in detail.

It may be interesting to our readers if we here reproduce an example of work from the hand
of a skilled artist showing the treatment of this subject, if it be only to realize how difficult it is for a painter, even when aiming at realism, to faithfully depict such a scene, if it has not actually come under his eyes. Here, in figure 3 is a portion of a very curious work of the fifteenth century, which is preserved in the Gallery at Cologne. The picture is anonymous, but is known as the Passion of Lyversberg.

In the centre of the picture we see Christ crowned with thorns, stricken and buffeted by a set of scoundrels, while in the background are some self-righteous Pharisees who preserve a general air of approval, without any intention of active co-operation in such questionable company. The malignant and brutal realism of the scene cannot be surpassed ; indeed, all the details of the picture are curiously minute and faithful. Evidently, if any one could be found capable of portraying such a punishment, it should be the artist who painted this picture. Notice the truthfulness of gesture with which the scourger raises both his arms, in act to strike; his back is turned to us, his legs wide apart, so as to give the blow with all his strength, his coat is tied round his loins—the hanging sleeves half pulled inside out in his haste to strip himself, his shirt has bulged loose at his waist through his exertions. On the right of Christ is a head, which by its extraordinary-concentration of hatred, shows the insight and imagination of the artist.

But all these great qualities are worthless when we consider the inability of the painter, not merely to give us an adequate representation of the Christ Himself, but even to show us the appearance of the wounds which would be produced by scourging.

The ruffian in shirt-sleeves is brandishing a sort of birch rod—indeed, the ground is strewn with its broken twigs. We should expect the body of Christ to be striped with the strokes, but it is not so ; the artist has chosen to cover the body with little stabs such as might have been made by big pins. These stabs are distributed over the whole surface of the sufferer's body, which would indicate that the punishment had been of long duration. Yet they remain separate from one another, and from each small stab trickles a symmetrical tear of blood. Plainly these wounds could never have been inflicted by a rod such as the artist has chosen, and in no case would the blood have trickled down as the painter has so clumsily and so monotonously represented it. Even the most finished artist of that day is at fault when he has to draw upon his imagination.

The marks of the scourging as shown on the Holy Shroud are all the more interesting and realistic by sheer force of contrast.

A weapon which could have produced such marks corresponds closely to the Roman flagrum, as described in the Dictionary of Roman and Greek Antiquities, by Anthony Rich. Here also we find the description of the flagellum—another sort of scourge—which it may not be amiss to quote. " flagellum (μάστιξ mástix,) : a whip made of numerous cords, twisted and knotted like the feelers of a polypus, which indeed are designated by the same name." Ov. Met. iv. 367 refers to it as "a whip made with long flexible lashes capable of cutting a man to death." The wounds inflicted by it are always described in words which express the action of cutting, thus, caedere, secare, scindere, in contradistinction to the flagrum, the action of which is described by such words as pinsere and rumpere, which give the sense of striking heavily and with force.