Bernard Sleigh (1872-1954),
The Crucifixion: A Triptych, 1906, oil on canvas, 84 x 32 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Verla Birrell and the Campbell Foundation, 2005.
For almost sixty years, this altarpiece hung in the chapel of London’s Holloway Prison—a poignant and hopeful declaration of Christ’s redeeming power. Aware of the intended audience for this altarpiece, the artist included a convicted man in chains at the foot of the cross who pleads for forgiveness and mercy. Four figures representing pillars of society likewise approach the cross: a knight, a judge, a king, and a bishop. Each bows to the Savior, offering up an emblem of his earthly power and authority. Angels amidst radiant light declare the triumph of Christ’s unparalleled sacrifice. To the right of the prisoner, one figure looks toward the viewer—the artist clothed as a humble shepherd. Sleigh’s wife and their two young children are pictured on the far right panel, also worshipping the crucified Christ. By including himself and his family, Sleigh’s work becomes a timeless invitation for all to partake of the Savior’s mercy and grace.