(b. ca. 1480, Regensburg, d. 1538, Regensburg)

Christ on the Cross

c. 1520
Wood, 75 x 57,5 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Apart from Dürer, Cranach and Grünewald, Altdorfer was the most significant German artist of the sixteenth century: a gifted painter, a graphic artist and the founder of the Danube School. He worked in Regensburg on the Danube, painting altarpieces and Biblical and historical scenes, and he was also the first landscape painter in the modern sense.

The Crucifixion is a composition with numerous figures depicted against a golden background. This works illustrates very fully his fresh manner of representation and narration. Altdorfer painted several Crucifixions, but it is possible, on stylistic grounds, to date this version to around 1520. The symmetrical arrangement, with the cross in the centre of the composition, the crowd surging round it and the golden background (an unusual feature with Altdorfer) give the work a peculiarly archaic character. As in some of his engravings, the painter borrowed several of the figures and motifs from Mantegna.

The painting was commissioned by Peter Maurer, Provost of Sankt Florian for his private chapel. It is signed with the artist's monogram at bottom right.