Master of Delft, The Crucifixion: Central Panel
Triptych: Scenes from the Passion of Christ
The story of the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion) unfolds across three crowded panels. On the left, Christ is led out from his trial; in the centre he has been crucified; to the right, his dead body is taken down from the Cross.
The sacred events seem to be taking place near the city of Delft: we can see the tower of its New Church in the background of the centre panel. The triptych (a painting made of three parts) was probably made for the convent of Koningsveld, just outside Delft. The man wearing a white habit and kneeling at the front of the centre panel is likely to be Herman van Rossum, provost of Koningsveld, who may have commissioned the triptych for the high altar in around 1510.
The story of the Passion, Christ’s torture and crucifixion, unfolds across three crowded panels. On the left, Christ is led out from his trial; in the centre, he has been crucified; to the right his dead body is taken down from the Cross.
The tower of the New Church in Delft is represented in the centre panel and, since the donor wears the habit of a Premonstratensian canon, it seems likely that the altarpiece was made for a Premonstratensian foundation near Delft. The only Premonstratensian convent in the Delft region was Koningsveld, a community of Premonstratensian canonesses dedicated to the Holy Cross, the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist and All Saints. The house was under the control of a prioress and a provost. The triptych may therefore have been painted for one of the provosts of Koningsveld, probably Herman van Rossum, who was in that role in the early 1510s. Its subject – the Crucifixion – would have been appropriated for a church dedicated to the Holy Cross. The Premonstratensians followed the rule of Saint Augustine, who is represented on the reverse of the left wing. The church and convent at Koningsveld were totally destroyed in the 1570s.
We don‘t know who the painter was but he seems to have worked in Delft in the early years of the sixteenth century. A second, larger triptych of the Crucifixion in Cologne is in the same style and closely related. He was an eclectic artist, borrowing freely from works by others, including Martin Schongauer, Hans Memling, and Rogier van der Weyden. He was perhaps connected in some way with Lucas van Leyden, as many of his figures are taken from engravings after Lucas’ painting. Indeed, prints from the past as well as contemporary ones were a hugely important resource for late medieval artists; many owned collections of them. All the borrowings in this painting come from prints made in or before 1509 but not from those of 1510, so it seems likely the painting was done around 1510.