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Gerard David, Christ Nailed to the Cross

Key facts
Full title Christ Nailed to the Cross
Artist Gerard David
Artist dates active 1484; died 1523
Series Triptych: Christ nailed to the Cross
Date made about 1481
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 48.4 × 93.9 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3067
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ Nailed to the Cross
Gerard David

Christ is stretched on the cross on which he is to be crucified – he looks straight at us to invite our sympathy. At his feet, two soldiers haul on ropes to pull his legs straight as another hammers an iron nail into his feet. A fourth knocks a nail into his right hand.

His pale skin and nakedness emphasise Christ’s vulnerability, and David has painted his body with great care: the thin covering of flesh on his distorted chest, the blue veins and taut sinews in his arms and the contorted fingers of his left hand all convey his terrible pain. His face is red, and he seems to be gritting his teeth.

This was once the central panel of a triptych (a painting in three parts). The outer wings are owned by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

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Triptych: Christ nailed to the Cross


This painting was once the centre of a triptych (a painting in three parts), and was originally flanked by Pilate and the Chief Priests on the left and The Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist and the Three Marys on the right (both now owned by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp). Together the three panels make sense as a Crucifixion scene, as they include all the characters you would normally find in one.

We don't know when the wings were separated from the central panel. This is one of David’s earliest surviving works, and was probably painted in or after 1491.