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Christ Justifying his Passion
Morales, Luis de
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Morales, Luis de

Badajoz (Spain), 1510 - Alcántara? (Spain), 1586

See author's file

Christ Justifying his Passion

Ca. 1565. Oil on panel.
On display elsewhere

This work is an example of an exceptional iconography within the subject matter habitually dedicated to the Passion by the painter, and even within that of the European art of his time as a whole. Although his most frequent subjects were the traditional ones of the Ecce Homo (alone or accompanied by executioners, by Pontius Pilate and an executioner, or by the Virgin and St John), Christ at the Column and the Pietà, some of his works nevertheless dealt with scenes that did not appear in the Gospels but were even more expressive of some of the concerns of his most learned clients. The Man of Sorrows in Minneapolis presents Christ meditating upon his own Passion and death, surrounded by their symbols as he sits on his sepulchre with his cheek resting on his left hand and ponders the causes -the sins of man- and the ends -the salvation of mankind- of his own sacrifice. Before a picture that is an allegory rather than a sacred narrative, the religious attitude of the viewer must have involved intellectual scrutiny as much as purely empathetic sentiment.

Although the scene that concerns us here has been identified as a variation on the Gospel (St Matthew and St Luke) description of Christ between the good and the bad thief, or between a repentant and an impenitent sinner, the lack of an episode in the Passion that might be illustrated by this painting nonetheless raises the possibility that it too could be an allegorical image for the purpose of meditation. According to this reading, it would show Christ, already on Golgotha but not yet crucified, and his executioner, in supposed Roman-style dress, with a grim countenance, his hammer in his hand, his brace and pincers hanging at his waist, and the nails in a basket, while Christ points out to him the object of his sacrifice, the soul of the deceased, who kneels in an attitude of prayer, half-covered in an already threadbare shroud, and awaits the supreme gift of eternal salvation at the very moment of the Crucifixion. The cross lies at Christ’s feet, still with no mark on it. The scene would presumably depend on the tradition of images of Jesus with the Arma Christi and the preparations for the Crucifixion, though these have been given an inventive reinterpretation that appears indebted less to the artist himself than to a learned and demanding client.

The horizon line situates us at the height of the kneeling figure, encouraging us to accompany him in prayer. The deceased man raises his eyes in blissful expectation of the salvation of all the dead, past and future, thanks to divine mercy. This identification of the viewer with the soul is in clear consonance with passages from the Libro de la Oración y Meditación (Salamanca, Andrea de Portonaris) of 1554, by Friar Louis of Granada (1504-1588), the Dominican who was in Badajoz in the 1560s after being transferred to the order’s convent there between 1547 and 1550 (Text drawn from Marías, F. in: The Divine Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, p. 188).


Technical data

Inventory number
Morales, Luis de
Christ Justifying his Passion
Ca. 1565
Height: 71 cm; Width: 49 cm
Unidentified convent of nuns (perhaps Las Benitas), Toledo; Valeriano Salvatierra, Madrid; Francisca Salvatierra Molero, daughter and heir of Valeriano Salvatierra y Barriales, Madrid; acquired for the Museo Nacional de la Trinidad, 1862; office of the Minister of Public Works, Antonio Aguilar y Correa (Marquis of La Vega de Armijo, 1824-1908), 1862; Museo del Prado, 1872.

Bibliography +

Madrazo, Pedro de, Catálogo de los Cuadros del Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura, Imprenta de J. Lacoste, Madrid, 1907, pp. n. 2167.

Berjano Escobar, Daniel, El Pintor Luis de Morales el Divino, [s.n], Madrid, 1917, pp. 85.

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis de Morales, C.S.I.C. Inst. Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1961, pp. 45.

Backsbacka, Ingjald, Luis de Morales, Helsingfords, Helsinki, 1962, pp. 170.

Noticias del Prado. Levantamiento definitivo de depósitos. Albacete. Museo, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 9, 1988, pp. 181.

Marías, Fernando, Luis de Morales ''El Divino'', Historia 16, 1992.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Solís Rodriguez, Carmelo, Luis de Morales, Fundacion Caja de Badajoz, Badajoz, 1999, pp. 202-3, n. 23.

Carlos V: las armas y las letras, Sociedad Estatal para la Commemoración de los centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Granada, 2000, pp. n. 162.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 62.

Marías, Fernando, 'Luis de Morales. Cristo justificando su Pasión' En:, El Divino Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 188-189 n.53.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 2167.
2167.-(841-F.)-Alegoría cristiana.-Jesucristo entre los dos pecadores, el contrito y el impenitente.-(Véase nuestro Catálogo extenso.) / Comprado por el Gobierno á los herederos de D. Valeriano Salvatierra, en 1862, á consulta de la Real Academia de San Fernando. / Alto 0,70; ancho 0,48.-T.

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 84.
PRIMITIVAS ESCUELAS ESPAÑOLAS [...] LUIS DE MORALES [...] 84. (numeración negra.) El Salvador entre los dos pecadores / Tabla.-Al 0,70.-An. 0,48.-Fig. e. 0,40. / El Divino Morales (Luis). / En el centro, el Salvador con túnica gris azulada; á la derecha, el impenitente con una cesta con clavos y un martillo en la mano; á la izquierda el contrito de rodillas, con manto verde. Se adquirió este cuadro en Diciembre de 1862, en la cantidad de 20.000 rs.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 84.
El divino Morales (Luis) / 84. Tabla= El Salvador entre los dos pecadores, el uno contrito y el otro impenitente. En el centro el Salvador con túnica gris azulada; a la dra. Un sayón con una cesta con clavos y un martillo en la mano; a la izquierda una figura de rodillas con manto verde. / Alto 0,70 ancho 0,48 fig.cº antº mr. Ntal / Fue adquirido en dbre. de 1862 de dª Salvatierra en la cantidad de 20.000 rs. Dicha sra. dijo q. lo había adquirido su sr. padre en Toledo, en una de las expediciones que como escultor de cámara hizo a aquella ciudad, de un convento de monjas

Inscriptions +

T 84
Scrap of paper. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

El Divino Morales
16.06.2016 - 25.09.2016

El Divino Morales
09.02.2016 - 16.05.2016

El Divino Morales
06.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

The Divine Morales
01.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Las armas y las letras en época de Carlos V
13.04.2000 - 25.06.2000

Location +

Murcia - Museo de Bellas Artes de Murcia (Deposit)

Displayed objects +

Objects from Christ's Passion

Update date: 11-02-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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