This is the aftermath of the Crucifixion. The soldiers are riding away, and only Christ’s followers are left. Christ hangs from the Cross, dead or near death. The Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist stand on the left, while Mary Magdalene clings to the foot of the Cross. On the left Joseph of Arimathea brings a shroud. With him is Nicodemus: the opening of his tomb can be seen behind the Cross - this is where Christ will be buried. Another man carries a ladder, to help get Christ’s body down.
This picture is one of a group of related Crucifixion scenes associated with Quinten Massys, his workshop and his followers. This picture and a version in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa appear to be largely by Massys. The hatching and feathering to soften the tonal transitions may be characteristic of Massys himself. The effect was achieved in some places, for example in Mary Magdalene’s sleeve, by dragging wet paint with dry brushes.
This is the aftermath of the Crucifixion. The soldiers are riding away, and only Christ’s family and followers are left. Christ, wearing an intricately woven crown, hangs from the Cross, dead or near death. The Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist stand on the left, while Mary Magdalene clings to the foot of the Cross.
The upright woman on the right is probably Mary Cleophas, who stood near the Cross (John 19: 25), while the woman who kneels in the lower right corner may be Salome, the wife of Zebedee. The two men in the background are Joseph of Arimathea, in pink, who was given permission to take Christ’s body down and bury it after the Crucifixion, and Nicodemus, who brought myrrh and aloes to prepare the body for burial. The rolled ball of white cloth under Joseph’s arm is Christ’s shroud. Behind Nicodemus, a man brings a ladder to help get the body down. Immediately behind the Cross is the opening of Nicodemus‘ tomb, in which they will bury Christ. In the distance, beside the head of the woman in the dark grey mantle, is a shepherd with his flock and dog, an allusion to Christ the Good Shepherd, who ’giveth his life for the sheep‘ (John 10: 11). The corn-grinding windmill may refer to Christ’s words at the Last Supper: ’And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me‘ (Luke 22: 19).
This picture is one of a group of related Crucifixion scenes associated with Quinten Massys, his workshop and his followers. This picture and a version in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, appear to be largely by Massys himself. The figures in both have similar proportions and resemble those in Massys’ great altarpiece of the Lamentation (Antwerp Cathedral). Some of the small figures in the background recur in the Ottawa Crucifixion and in a Crucifixion at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers, which is attributed to the Master of Hoogstraten, who may have had access to Massys‘ workshop patterns.
Although Massys was well aware of the work of his Netherlandish predecessors – Christ’s floating loincloth, the woman kneeling and touching the Cross and the gesture of the woman in green are all taken from Rogier van der Weyden, whose ideas had been widely imitated – he was perhaps chiefly responsible for changing Netherlandish artists’ attitudes to colour and handling of paint. He used a great variety of techniques, including stippling (in the green dress of the standing woman) and sgraffito (to extend the thorns of Christ’s crown over the cross). Some of the red and green glazes have been blotted with textiles. The hatching and feathering to soften the tonal transitions may be characteristic of Massys himself. The effect was achieved in some places, for example in Mary Magdalene’s sleeve, by dragging wet paint with dry brushes.
The painting is in good condition, although some of the colours have changed. Mary Magdalene’s mantle, once purplish pink, has faded; the elaborate pattern on her skirts has been rubbed, although the same pattern on her dress is reasonably complete. The faces of the women on the right have been repainted. The panel is constructed of two boards of Baltic oak; the first board is from the same tree as Massys‘ An Old Woman (’The Ugly Duchess'), which may plausibly be dated around 1513. This panel may also be dated around that time.
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