“Cristo Crucifado (Christ Crucified),” by José Benito Ortega (1858–1941). Blue skin distinguishes this wooden crucifix, carved for a meetinghouse of the Penitentes, a lay brotherhood of Spanish American Catholics. The sculpture reflects the Penitentes’ first-hand knowledge of suffering on the cross. One member of the brotherhood, describing a brother chained to the cross during a holy day celebration, reported: “After a few minutes of being bound in this manner, the retardation of the circulation of the blood would cause the veins on the arms to stand out like cords and the trunk of the body to assume a purplish-blue color.”
The Penitentes, who trace their roots to the Middle Ages, provide a living example of the kind of religious community that would have had sufficient knowledge to produce the shadowy—yet anatomically correct—image of a crucified man that appears on the Shroud of Turin.