I wrote earlier about some symbolism in a hymn. Recently in my New Testament class we had a lecture on symbolism in religious art. Then for class yesterday we visited the Museum of Art at BYU and had a guided tour of the museum’s display of religous art.
I’ve never spent a lot of time looking for elements of paintings that could have symbolic meaning. One of the pieces on display was rescued from a prison in England by one of the prison’s employees. While she was working there, the prison was clearing out a lot of things. A three panel painting of Christ on the cross was one of the things that was going to be destroyed. It had been painted for the chapel in the church and I’m sure many inmates over the years had studied the art thinking about the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. The employee paid a small sum of money to purchase the painting and after some time it’s ended up at BYU.
We learned a lot about the symbolism in this painting. One of the people standing at the foot of the cross had a chain, representing the inmates. Others from different pillars of society were also at the foot of the cross looking up. At the top the cross and expanding over the entire top portion of the painting was a depiction of the angels in heaven looking down. Christ on the cross showed a connection between heaven and earth.
Just above Jesus’ head was a board declaring, “Christ paid the price for the sins of all.” Surely this was a sign of hope to those who read it in the chapel of that prison.