Elijah Pierce (American, 1892 - 1984)

mid-1930s. Oil on canvas, 47 3/4 x 30 3/4". 1985.003.001

Pierce’s religious carvings are his “sermons in wood.” This masterpiece, containing more than forty figures, was originally a free-standing tableau on six stepped levels. In the early 1970s, the artist mounted the carvings on a painted wood panel. In this work, the crucifixion is accompanied by a blackened sun and a crescent moon that rains blood. Satan, in the center with his arms outstretched in a parody of Christ, stands on red ground that is symbolic of blood, martyrdom, and hellfire. Pierce’s works are the physical embodiment of his beliefs, and he frequently preached sermons from them.

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