The painting was inspired by a drawing, preserved in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, and done by Saint John of the Cross himself after he had seen this vision of Christ during an ecstasy. The people beside the boat are derived from a picture by Le Nain and from a drawing by Velazquex for The Surrender of Breda.
At the bottom of his studies for the Christ, Dali wrote: “In the first place, in 19150, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered in ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ! In the second place, when, thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which aesthetically summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle.”
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”