Easter 2022 -Croatia Stamp

This year’s Easter stamp of the Croatian Post features a painting of the Calvary by an unknown painter from the 18th century. Today it is housed in the Franciscan monastery in Čakovec, and it originates from the former Pauline monastery of St. Helena near Čakovec. A number of famous painters worked in the Pauline Order, but, as Mirjana Repanić Braun says, there is no painting among their works in continental Croatia comparable to this one: it probably came from abroad.

The image is very dramatic, both by its convulsive, vertical composition, and the conflicts of light and darkness. One might say that in its distant landscape, in a vast dark sky, in the “darkness that came over the whole land”, the painting, using the language of a completely different time, retains the spirit of Tintoretto’s inventions. But the most unusual fact about this painting is that in the foreground, as the basis of the whole scene, there is a shape that resembles an altar with a tabernacle or a leafy capital of a pillar: an architectural element on which the living scene takes place as a theatrical sight. Indeed, the whole of Calvary, building upon that central pillar, appears as if to be losing the actual ground under its feet. There occurs a melding of realities between the inhabitants of heaven (below) and those of earth (above). Everything is shifted here, everything can be read as an inversion, everything is mixed, both torment and triumph, the human and the supernatural, and present and future. It is as if the load-bearing architectural element also changes the scale of the scene, transforming the realism of the world into the illusionism of the stage. Perhaps with this peculiar image the painter said more than he had originally intended.

We could say that with the future foreground he relativized the darkness of the other. Death is the dark side of life, and resurrection is the bright side of death. The order of those sides is constantly changing. In anni circulo (“in the circle of the year”), or in vitae circulo (“in the circle of life”), Good Friday, Easter and Christmas differ only in frame. Where Calvary ends, the Nativity Scene begins. And vice versa.

The painter of Calvary from Čakovec “framed” his scene not only with the boundaries of the painting, but with the boundaries of content. Namely, he also painted the boundaries of torment. In fact, he painted Good Friday, Easter and Christmas at the same time. He portrayed time as a soluble substance. The invisible compositional scheme of his painting is a circle. That is why even the seemingly dark sky of this painting sends a message of light.