HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger
(b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)

Diptych with Christ and the Mater Dolorosa

c. 1520
Limewood, 29 x 19.5 cm (each panel)
Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

Jesus sits exhausted on the plinth of an aedicula decorated in the style of the Italian Renaissance. In contrast to His strong, muscular body, Jesus' face is ravaged by the strains of the Passion, arousing pity in the beholder, who is also summoned to devotion by Mary's gesture towards her Son and by her pain-stricken gaze. Though Jesus wears a large crown of thorns, indicating that the Via Crucis (the Way of the Cross) has begun, the wounds are absent, so that the Crucifixion still lies in the future; he is not yet the Man of Sorrows. The architecture indicates Pilate's palace. Holbein has removed the figures from the scenic setting of the Biblical story and turned the tortured Christ into the main figure of a devotional picture.