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Frame by frame

The MFA’s telling portrait of Christ

In the entire Museum of Fine Arts, there cannot be many pictures more compelling than this. It’s an unusual version of an old standby of Christian iconography, “Christ as the Man of Sorrows.” Everything about it forces your attention.

It is, to begin with, shockingly graphic: There are at least nine separate streams of blood flowing from Christ’s forehead alone. His muscular torso is a gruesome mess. And notice the way the blood coming from the wounds on his left arm seems to trickle upward, against gravity: It’s a device to remind us of Christ’s recent agony; it suggests he has only recently been taken down from the cross.

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