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The Crucifixion
Master of the Aachen Altarpiece
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This is the central panel of a triptych (a painting in three parts) that was made for the church of St Columba, Cologne. Its two side panels – or shutters – are in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

A small group mourns the crucified Christ: the Virgin Mary, his mother, stands at the foot of the Cross with three distraught holy women, opposite a red-eyed Saint John the Evangelist. Christ has been nailed to the Cross, while the two thieves crucified alongside him have been tied up with rope. The contorted poses of their bodies suggest the agony of the torture they are enduring, while Christ’s body is serene in death.

Among the crowd on the left, Christ is shown before the Crucifixion, collapsing under the weight of his cross as he carries it to the site of his execution. The upper right of the panel shows his body being removed from the Cross.

Key facts
Artist Master of the Aachen Altarpiece
Artist dates active late 15th to early 16th century
Full title The Crucifixion
Group The Crucifixion Altarpiece
Date made about 1490-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 107.3 x 120.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Edward Shipperdson, 1847
Inventory number NG1049
Location in Gallery Not on display
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The Crucifixion Altarpiece

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This altarpiece was commissioned by the family of Hermann Rinck, who was burgomaster (or mayor) of Cologne three times in the 1480s, after his death in around 1496. It stood on the altar of their family chapel in the church of Saint Columba in the city.

The altarpiece is in the form of a triptych (a painting made up of three panels). Its two side panels – or shutters – are in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. The altarpiece was dismantled and the panels separated some time between 1810 and 1820. The central panel, which is in the National Gallery’s collection, shows Christ’s crucifixion. The shutters show the episodes leading up to the Crucifixion and those that followed it.

When the altarpiece was cleaned in 1963, overpaint on the reverse of the shutters was removed, revealing paintings of Rinck and his wife with three of their sons.

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