Feeling of Ascension sets Dalí’s Depictions of Christ Apart

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dalí Historian


One of the hallmarks of Salvador Dalí’s art was his counter-culture vision: when, in art school, his drawing instructor had the class copy a particular statue, Dalí drew a pair of scales! That’s what he saw, he insisted.


How an artist “sees” is what makes him or her unique. It’s what sets one artist apart from another, and from us. It allows us to share the artist’s vision and get a peek into his soul.


When it came to depicting Jesus Christ – a most appropriate subject this time of year, to be sure – Dalí’s penchant for seeing in a very special way didn’t disappoint.


In the four major religious paintings by Salvador Dalí – all depicting the image of Christ – his subject is either shown ascending toward heaven, or there’s a related detail expressing the feeling of ascension. Unlike most other famous paintings of Jesus through art history, Dalí showed absolutely no hint of pain, anguish, or despondency.


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Perhaps the best-known painting of Christ expressing the horror of crucifixion was that of Mathias Grunewald, in his gruesome The Crucifixion of Christ. El Greco showed the torturous crown of thorns, while Dalí’s favorite painter – Velasquez – portrayed a beautiful Christ form with the nails in his bloodied hands and feet, as well as His lanced right side.


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But Salvador Dalí’s vision was deliberately different. No nails. No thorns. Bo blood. No sense of pain or anguish. Instead, he chose to emphasize a feeling of triumph, of the victory of good or evil, and the ultimate beauty of Christ’s life and infinite meaning.


What’s more, Dalí was especially interested in portraying the central significance of Christ’s time on earth – his Resurrection – thus showing a feeling of ascension in his major oils.


We see it in Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951), where the crucified savior rises high above the clouds, as we welcome his heavenly journey from the vantage point of God the Father.




A sense of ascension is likewise felt in Corpus Hypercubus (1954), as we witness the towering figure of Jesus rise from a hypercube.




And the very title of Dalí’s 1958 picture, Ascension of Christ (a.k.a., Ascension), speaks of the rising Christ figure heading toward the heavens.




Finally, in The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955), the figure of Jesus Christ gestures upwards, while the torso in the central background of the large painting may be interpreted as a representation of Christ’s ascension.




These various images of Jesus Christ by Salvador Dalí wield enormous favor among art lovers everywhere – expressly because they’re unconventional. Different. Unexpected. And pretty magnificent.


[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only.]