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Workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aalst, The Crucifixion: Central Panel

Key facts
Full title The Crucifixion: Central Panel
Artist Workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aalst
Artist dates 1502 - 1550
Series The Crucifixion Triptych
Date made probably 1527-30
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from oak
Dimensions 72.2 × 49.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Joseph H. Green, 1880
Inventory number NG1088.1
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Crucifixion: Central Panel
Workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aalst

Christ hangs from a T-shaped cross. Sorrowing angels circle above him in a stormy sky, while the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist stand on either side, wringing their hands. The skull – seen from beneath and minus its jaw bone – is probably that of Adam, the first man, but it’s also a reference to Golgotha (‘the place of the skull’), where Christ was crucified.

This image of the Crucifixion forms the central panel of a triptych (a painting in three parts) that was probably made in the workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aalst. It was evidently a popular composition: several versions of it survive.

This panel was transferred to canvas in the nineteenth century, perhaps because one of the oak boards on which it was made had split vertically through Christ’s left wrist.

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The Crucifixion Triptych


Two donors – husband and wife – kneel in the wings of this triptych (a painting in three parts) and gaze at the Crucifixion in the central panel. The Annunciation – the moment the Virgin Mary was told she would bear a child – was originally painted in shades of grey on the outside of the wings, but the fronts and backs are now physically separate.

The style of the painting associates it with the work of Bernaert van Orley and especially his pupil, Pieter Coecke van Aalst. Coecke seems to have run a large workshop and several artists of limited ability seem to have been involved in this painting. This image of the Crucifixion was evidently a popular composition: several versions of it survive.