Wolfang Beltracchi, 2018
Drawing Lots for the Clothing of Christ
Artistic voice: Joachim Beuckelaer, 1566, Antwerp
Oil on canvas, 70 x 99.5 cm

»Beuckelaer’s secular/religious scenes date mainly from the 1560’s, a period of mounting Calvinist agitation. The execution of several of these paintings is directly contemporaneous with the outbreak of iconoclasm itself. The nominal Catholicism of Beuckelaer notwithstanding, the character of his work coincides remarkably with Calvin’s call for an art of the visible. The church’s failure to react vigorously to the reformed challenge regarding images seems to have led to a popular indifference to the issue, that ultimately permitted the wholesale destruction of ecclesiastical art in 1566.«

Professor Keith Moxey, Columbia University, New York

In his paintings, Beuckelaer shifts the focus to the profane setting of a sacral event. Beltracchi shows a side plot of the Passion as a secular scene: in this case, the soldiers dividing up Christ‘s clothes among themselves are book printers playing dice. The clothes are also depicted symbolically; the crucifixion can be seen in the background. Transposing a religious event to the painter‘s own time is not uncommon in art history. Here, the printing press refers to a historic turning point: in 1566, Calvinist iconoclasm, supported by printed pamphlets, swept through Antwerp. Churches were plundered, leading to the destruction of several paintings by Beuckelaer. Iconoclasm was also politically motivated and often carried out with the approval of an anticlerical authority.