Salvador Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross - Analysis

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí, 1951

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

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St John of the Cross

The 16th century Spanish mystic St John of the Cross had a vision that he had translated onto paper. He had drawn the crucifxion from an unusual angle and when Salvador Dali saw this drawing, he was inspired. The Christ of St. John of the Cross is the result.

The Point of View

We have seen many pictures of the crucifixion but never one from this point of view, have we? Well, the regulars are from the POV of the worshiper, but Dali's is unique. He has rendered his crucifixion from the point of view of God!

It's like God looking at His Son, after the mission is accomplished. This POV serves another purpose, too. Given that it is God's view, we see Jesus as the bridge between God and the mortal world, represented by that seascape below. This painting is surreal because Dali has mixed two perspective angles. The seascape is in our eye-level, instead of following the angle of the cross and showing a bird's eye-view of Golgotha.

The Geometry and its significance

This painting, viewed from afar, will take the shape of an hourglass, which could stand for time: an inverted triangle for the crucifix, and an upright one caused by the lighting below. It balances the composition.

The Christ and the cross forms the triangle of the Holy Trinity, with Christ's head a circle in the centre of the triangle, extending to mean that He or His act is the centre and meaning of everything in the universe; He is all that you need to realize. The arrow points to earth, meaning that this is God's gift to mankind.

Insights from In The Doghouse

By noticing the inverted triangle that is formed by Christ and the cross, I have been reminded that the inverted triangle is a symbol of the condescension that a God made to atone for the world, or man. Basically, it is heaven pointing toward earth.

The above is from In the Doghouse's comment from my last hub.

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Comments 39 comments

jstankevicz profile image

jstankevicz 9 years ago from Cave Creek

Great analysis of this breathtaking picture.

compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 9 years ago from London UK

Indeed it ceratainly is jstankevicz and it's good to see you around:)

Great hub Kenny..You always tell it how it is and then some;)

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


As always a great HUB, you are a wonderful teacher.  I am honored that you posted my comments from last class, I am such an art amatuer that it just shows that your teaching in masterful.

I must admit I really loved the two perspectives shown in this picture, the view from above, and the view from ground level. As I look at the calm sea it reminds me of the point we, as followers of Christ, are asked to follow Him and He will make us "fishers of men." I am also reminded of the committment that it will be as he challanged us to "take up our cross and follow him." In following Him we come directly back to the Father, who is now looking down on us, encouraging us to take that first step.

Thank you for helping me to see the beauty in art.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thank you, Jstankevicz! Great comment, too.

I try to, Compu-smart, thank you! :)

In the Doghouse, I'm honoured, too. 

Thanks for the bonus 'take,' it's beneficial to all our visitors. 

The fishing boat could refer to Jesus making us fishers of men, right!


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 9 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Kenny: You are gifted teacher; I am learning to look at art from a higher focus, so thank you! Its beautiful to try to get into the artist's mind and energy to see what his vision was when creating art.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thank you, Violet; I am delighted! It is beautiful.

We can attempt getting into the artist's mind, and even if we fail,

we are enriched by the experience, only because we spent more time

looking at his or her work.

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Iðunn 9 years ago

kenny, can you do my Virgin Mary? (Sassoferrato)

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Sure, Iðunn, will do. It's a good slice of the Baroque cake, thank you for the suggestion.

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Iðunn 9 years ago

thank YOU :)

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Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

My pleasure! :)

MoneyNewsletter profile image

MoneyNewsletter 9 years ago from Cartersville

Dali,Giger,Escher have always been my favorite artists. They all see things with amazing perspectives. I think your take on Dali really has hit the nail on the head.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Welcome, Money, to my hubs, and am delighted to have done atleast one of your favourite three. Escher is one of my faves, too.

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Iðunn 9 years ago

You know Kenny, I think I actually blurred and missed this was an entirely different hub last time I popped in.

I like your comment on considering that the visual allows us to see Jesus' crucifixtion as a bridge, but your other comment regarding God regarding the mission as accomplished... I started wondering what God might have been thinking.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thanks for "The Return of Iðunn." Yes, this hub's similar to the last Dali one in looks, that's why you blurred. Maybe.

These paintings are like Haikus. 

Each viewer meditates, and gets unique insights. 

It could be deemed sacreligious arrogance to assume what God thinks, but I don't think He will mind, as long as we do it with a child's arrogance. :)

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Iðunn 9 years ago

ah, you hit me in my weak spot, arrogance. even so, I won't guess for God, but I will say I saw a movie once that broke my heart.

It was called "Dominick and Eugene" and it was about one brother trying to take care of his older brother who had been beaten into slowness by their father, if you will, as a child trying to protect his sibling. This mildly retarded man's dog died, and the priest said to him he was sure the dog would be in Heaven. Dominick looked at Jesus on the cross and then he looked back at the priest and said, "If I were God, I wouldn't let them do that to my son."

I've always remembered that. It's a good movie, if you can find it, but it's also quite disturbing and very sad, so I'll warn you in advance.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

I'll see it when I am in a 'please disturb me' mode. I see such movies when I need to remind myself that I'm a human being and not a cyborg or something. Too cool in the old sense of the word for my own good, I am!

God has only proved that we are all his children, maybe.

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Seing the cross with Christ attached is something most of us have grown up with. We all see and think of what an awful way to have to die...Yet, how sad that by seeing this horrific death daily, year in and year out we've gotten possibly a little apathetic. Three years ago the Easter Sunday Service changed all that for me. The sermon was the most horrific explanations of what happens to a human body when treated such...the really young Minister had a way with words. He took us, the congregation, step by step from the pains inflicted by flogging, to the body shutting down organ by organ...I still hear his monoton yet strong matter of fact voice in my head, and since then I can't look at the cross without horror...

great HUB Sir as always

regards Zsuzsy

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thank you, Madam Bee, for the extra long comment.

I felt the same after seeing 'The Passion of the Christ.'

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

Nice one Kenny, great analysis, otherwise we would have just thought it was a great painting but your comments adds great value to it. Well done.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

My job is to encourage people to see more in art and involve them a little more, right!

Thanks, Cgull for alighting on this hub.

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 9 years ago from North Wales

Hi Kenny,It looks like I will be going to Scotland before I get to Barcelona, I didn't know the painting was almost on my doorstep.Thanks.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Delighted to bring it to your attention, Gareth, and i envy you! :)

sim71 profile image

sim71 9 years ago from Norwich, Norfolk, UK


Took your advice to read this hub and really enjoyed it. Dali really painted some amazing pictures, they are so filled with spirituality and yet evoke so many different emotions.

Well done for an effective hub.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thanks, Sim, for coming here as well. Glad that you enjoyed the visit.

Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

Wow! Excellent.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Thanks, Peter for that wow and excellent. Nice new profile pic you got. Coming there to take a closer look.

shyamal chatterji 9 years ago

i read your aticles on Dali's paintings with interest. i have one comment , one query too.sending you a separate mail about the comment. the querry is here : would like to have your inputs as well as inputs from other friends and hubbers.

i am doing a project on terracotta temples of bengal.i have published 3 hubs so far ... in my comp's HDD, i have 100s of photographs and the work is in progress.

at this moment , i am working on iconography of these panels.i am reading books and articles to understand the religious and social scene of the period when these temples were constructed, editing photographs and making my own notes.

do you know any internet sites where i can read about 'appreciation' of this type of art ? as you know, these panels are not 3-dimensioal sculptures,not murals....somewhat unique.

best wishes.

shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 9 years ago from Calcutta

Thanks for referring these URLs. I could not open's blog.

But, I am looking for no ordinary references."Appreciation' of terracotta panels will be beyond the this type of sites. It would explain how to 'view' and understand the quality of the imagery critically.


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai Author

Then I have to do it myself. Unfortunately, I am not as knowledgeable on those as I could be on South Indian temple sculpture.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 7 years ago

Kenny Wordsmith, Wonderful hub! what an interesting perspective; Jesus being the bridge between mankind and God!

Thank you for sharing, Blessings!

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 7 years ago from Chennai Author

DeBorrah, thank you! God be with you. :)

Dave 6 years ago


As much as I like the fact that you are one of the few people who have written about where Dali received his "vision" from, I think you presume far too much in your analysis of the painting. First off this article would have done much better with an inclusion of the drawing by San Juan Delacruz.

Secondly, and I hate to knock you, but your artistic rendering of a triangle superimposed over the painting only hinders your attempts at convincing me, the reader, that Jesus' head is in the center and it's because he's the center of the universe.

Give me a break man. It's like you had to come up with a freshman thesis on the meaning of a surrealist painting and that's the best you could finnagle out of 24 hours and zero inspiration. Clearly the bottom of the red triangle you've provided has no anchor and is therefore totally arbitrary. If you were to outline his body as it's actually painted, his head ain't in the middle brah. So what does that mean? I'm not gonna pretend like I know.

But in case you're wondering go back and compare the painting to the original drawing and you might come up with something.


Shady Bird Johnson, Esq.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 6 years ago from Chennai Author

Dear Shady, Firstly, Have now given a link to the drawing.

Secondly, you don't sound like you hate to knock me. :D

And it's my take man, take it or leave it. I'm not here to convince someone who has obviously come to criticize. If you don't see, you can't see.

And, there's no use comparing this with the original drawing. That was a spirit, this is art.

Lose some of that hate and suspicion man, and you gain lots of things.

Sometimes, when I was a teenager, I used to think it cool to criticize and find faults in things which people in general liked. I thought I was a cut above the rest. As I became older, I realized that I will miss out on the joys of life by reducing the number of things I appreciate.



Anyone 5 years ago

You know, I would have liked this a lot better. But they forgot a few things. The lamb on christs back, and the ten virgins.

Anyone 5 years ago

Also forgot that he has no nails in his hands, shows he is a willing sacrifice.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 5 years ago from Chennai Author

The nails are suggested and invisible. Thank you. :)

MacTheKnife 4 years ago

The key triangle in Dali's life was the Emporda triangle and it's apex was port Lligat where he lived with his divine goddess, Gala, whose boat is at the base of the painting as are the fishermen whose cottages he gradually bought and merged onto the place he called home for 50 years

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 4 years ago from Chennai Author

I suspect the Emporda triangle is a marketing hype, but can't object to it, since Dali himself was the biggest master of hype. Thank you, Mac. :)

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