Gothic Altarpieces
Crucifixion of Christ, Low Countries - Ca. 1420
Tempera on panel, 56 x 42.5 cm

The second painted Gothic panel in the Bührle Collection also has as its subject the Crucifixion of Christ in a crowded Calvary scene. The stylistic distance between the earlier and the later panel is obvious. In the later painting, the figures have gained in volume, their spatial grouping is clearer and their faces are finer and livelier. There is greater depth in the scene, which is much closer to a genuine landscape, in which the gold ground assumes the function of the sky. Details are more natural, richer; at the same time, the garments glow with beautiful colours and fall in soft, flowing folds. These are all elements of the so-called «International Style» in the first quarter of the fifteenth century - which makes the provenance of the panel all the more mysterious. In the mid-nineteenth century the painting was part of the huge collection of Johann Peter Weyer, city planning director of Cologne. The history of Painting in Cologne is richly and comprehensively documented; thus, it can be said with certainty that this picture was not produced in a Cologne workshop. The large, powerful stallions vigorously stretching their heads and John's remarkable physiognomy, quite unlike conventional Cologne or Westphalian features, could indicate a provenance further west, i.e., in the Netherlands or France. The beautifully composed groups in the foreground betray the use of pattern books. John's gaze or the pointing gestures of the figures on the right are not, in fact, focused on the figure of Christ, which is placed unusually high above the crowd. The reason for this discrepancy is that in the model from which these figures are copied the cross was conventionally positioned in the foreground between the two groups.