Gothic Altarpieces
Crucifixion of Christ, Southeastern Germany, ca. 1340
Tempera on panel, 33 x 24 cm

The panel of the Crucifixion of Christ was painted about 1340. Matching hinge marks reveal that it was originally part of a diptych, of which the other wing is a Birth of Christ now in the picture gallery in Berlin. The wing in the Bührle Collection depicts the Crucifixion in the form of a crowded Calvary scene. The mourners have gathered on the left side of the painting, i.e., to the right of Christ: Mary, his mother, on the point of collapsing from grief, is supported by two other Marys. One holy woman raises her arms in despair, while John, Christ's beloved disciple, looks up at the face of the deceased. The background of the panel is very elaborate: on a polished gold ground dense vine tendrils - a Eucharistic motif - have been applied and create the sumptuous effect of a golden pattern against a background in a different shade of gold. For a transalpine artist, the painter of the diptych borrowed an unusually large number of motifs from Italian art. Italian elements include the classical style of the Good Centurion's armour, the heavily foreshortened angels, the prominent view of Stephaton from the back and the group of holy women taking care of the Virgin. The panel is very difficult to classify within a specific art historical context, and for the time being it is impossible to locate the provenance of the diptych more precisely than the wider area of Bavaria and Austria centred on Salzburg. However, copies of elements of the Zurich Crucifixion illustrate that from the time of its creation, this panel in particular must have been held in high regard as an exemplary work of its kind.