Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Luke Contemplating the Crucifixion (1630s, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid)
The Spanish types of sculpture in this show were created with unusual techniques to make them as life-like as possible. Juan Martínez Montañés (1568-1649) made glass tears that shimmer on the cheeks of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order -- Gregorio Fernández used glass to make the eyes of his Ecce homo figure shine (the figure seems closely modeled on Michelangelo's Cristo della Minerva, and not only because it was originally completely nude) -- and followers of Pedro de Mena (1628-1688) used bits of horn for the fingernails of the penitent Magdalen. Mena himself left a permanently glistening wetness in the trails of blood on his Ecce homo, as if the wounds are fresh and the blood still actually flowing. (While the sculptures were made of realistically painted wood, the clothing is often real clothing, glued in place and painted.) Francisco Ribalta (1565-1628) has his Christ reach from the cross to return the embrace of Bernard of Clairvaux who is lost in meditation before the crucifix.
Francisco de Zurbarán, St. Francis in Ecstasy (c. 1640, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
This small but exquisite show will be open through May 31, but be warned that if you visit during the Triduum, as I did, you may be tempted to reach out to reverence these depictions of the crucifixion with the words, "¡Dulces clavos! ¡Dulce árbol donde la vida empieza!" If you cannot get there in person, the next best thing is this slideshow of many of the artworks. The soundtrack behind it is a recording of Stephen Hough's Requiem aeternam, based on Victoria's setting of the Requiem Mass. You can hear it performed live this Easter Sunday afternoon (April 4, 6:30 pm) in a free concert at the National Gallery of Art (unusually, on the concourse of the East Building).