What is Crucifix?
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and is left hanging until the person dies a painful death. The term Crucifix has a Latin origin, crucifixion meaning fixed to a cross ('cruci': cross and verb 'ficere': fix or do). After Jesus Christ was crucified, the Crucifix became the religious symbol for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. However, Protestant Christians mostly prefer to use a cross without the figure of the Christ. The mention about the Crucifix dates back to the Persians. As per history Alexander and his generals brought the crucifix back to the Mediterranean world, especially to Egypt and Carthage. The Romans apparently learned the practice from the Carthaginians and rapidly developed a very high degree of efficiency and skill at it. Crucifix is also mentioned in various ancient literatures as well. The most common form used was the Tau cross, shaped like the letter T. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. There is archaeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified.
History of Crucifix
The history of the Crucifix is integrally linked with Jesus Christ. He is shown with nails in his hands. According to the earliest writings the shape of the Cross on which Christ breathed his last is shaped like the English alphabet 'T' or composed of an upright and a transverse beam, together with a small ledge in the upright. Most of the sculptors of crucifixes also show the nails through the palms. Historical Roman accounts and experimental work have established that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. The excruciating pain that Christ experienced before his death is hard to put in words.
As far as the carved diamond crucifix made by Mahendra Shah, the master polisher, is concerned, each and every detail had been paid attention to. In the diamond carving one can see that the figure of Christ has nails driven at an angle between the small bones and the wrist. The expression on the face of Jesus Christ is very well brought out in the carving. One can understand this better if one can imagine how a poor victim's left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.
The popular depiction of the Crucifix also includes a suppedaneum or foot-rest. It perhaps serves the purpose of taking the person's weight off the wrists. Some scholars interpret the Alexamenos graffito, the earliest surviving depiction of the Crucifixion, as including such a foot-rest. Ancient sources do mention the sedile, a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway down, which could have served a similar purpose. The present diamond sculpture also shows the foot rest.
Feature of Carved Diamond Crucifix
The carved Diamond Crucifix presents a grayish figure of Christ due to the graphite deposition in the fractures. The following are the key features of the famous diamond Crucifix:
* It measures 27.12mm x 7.24mm x 4.25mm
* The weight of the Crucifix 13.94 gm along with the metal cross
* The crucifix was accompanied by a GIA certificate 1107238107 dated February 23, 2009.
* The Crucifix had been carved out of type IaB diamond.
* Its colour is dark grey.
Stages of Carving
Whilst discussing the carved diamond Crucifix, it would be interesting to note how it is actually sculpted. The process begins with measuring each and every small part with an electronic digital caliper on the original wooden crucifix. Another interesting fact is that Mahendra Shah designed his own instruments to carve the Crucifix Diamond Sculpture. Assuming 24.44mm:1mm as the conversion factor, all the dimensions were calculated. Thus the head to toe measurement that was 570mm in the wooden crucifix, measured to 23.31mm in the diamond carving. For example the 490mm dimension of head to ankle was converted into 20.04mm. Head to knee, head to thigh, head to waist, head to naval point, head to chest bones, head to chin, head to nose and height from raised hands to bottom stand were all meticulously altered for the diamond carving. There are factual details, too, of the chest width, waist width at navel point, knee width, thigh width, calf width, ankle width, palm width, elbow width, wrist width and the arm-pit width.
The carving was done in three dimensions so that one had to take into consideration the armpit thickness, chest thickness, waist thickness. The gross dimensions like head thickness, ankle thickness, calf thickness, wrist thickness elbow thickness, forehead thickness were paid special heed. In addition to these the thickness between two nails of the crown 90mm (3.68mm) or thickness of the fingers from original 5mm to 0.20mm was slowly burnished to achieve perfection.
But some of the interesting dimensions which one would not think of actually measuring in a small figurine were the width of the face with hair, width of the nail crown, width between the ears, with of the knot of the cord around the waist of Christ. It is for the first time that a natural diamond carved in the form of a crucifix mounted in a white metal cross was created. The main statue of the Christ as well as the gibbet on which crucifixion was carried out was made of natural diamond which had trigons and striations that are characteristic of diamonds.
Great attention has been paid by the artist to carve the ribs, muscles, toes and other body parts as it must have taken him years of patience to do this on a material of hardness 10. The carving also had proper curvature of the calf muscles and bending of the knees when observed from the sides.
Type of Crucifixes
GIA certificate granted a Diamond Type classification for the diamond as Type IaB. This indicates that the said diamond has nitrogen content and the nitrogen atoms are in aggregate form in a cluster of 4 nitrogen atoms together. This is the first Crucifix Diamond sculpture made totally from a diamond that has an identification report from the Gemological Institute of America as "Rare" and "Unique" piece of carving.
Mahendra Shah, the Diamond Polisher
Over the years Mahendra Shah carved and sculpted many famous diamonds into beautiful pieces of art. In the 2001 he got the divine vision to carve a Crucifix. When he got a large piece of diamond rough, Mahendra Shah planned and ultimately came to the idea of actually buying a wooden crucifix. Mahendra Shah had conceived and developed the idea of buffing the diamond, a process calling for immense patience, ingenuity and insight. One can imagine imparting rhythm, shape and symmetry by buffing on a piece of diamond just about 8 grams requires not only dexterous hands but tremendous control and dedication. Mahendra Shah, the famous diamond polisher, is the only person so far known in India to have adopted this method and created rare and unique art pieces.
(Last Updated on : 12-10-2010)