The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel

By Mitchell B. Merback,

Book cover of The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Book description

This text reconstructs the religious, legal and historical context of the Crucifixion and of other images of public torture. The result is an account of a time when criminal justice and religion were entirely interrelated and punishment was a visual spectacle devoured by a popular audience. Mitchell Merback compares the…

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Why read it?

1 author picked The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

An art history book might not seem like the most obvious choice for a list like this, but this one is a revelation: we often forget that Crucifixion paintings are scenes of capital punishment. Merback looks at crucifixion images of northern European masters of the late medieval and early modern period, and reveals that the often mangled positions of the limbs of the two thieves on either side of Christ are depictions of the kinds of mutilations that spectators regularly witnessed on the bodies of those broken on the wheel (where the limbs were smashed and then 'woven' through the…

From Una's list on the history of capital punishment.

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