MASTER of the Berswordt Altarpiece
(active 1390s in Westphalia)
Oil and gold on modern plywood support, transferred from wood, 58 x 43 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
This panel showing the Crucifixion comes from a large dismantled retable probably made for the high altar of the former Kollegiatstift Sankt Maria und Sankt Georg, now the Neustädter Marienkirche in Bielefeld.
One of the key monuments of late medieval painting in Westphalia, completed in 1400, the altarpiece was a triptych with folding wings about 6,56 maters wide when fully opened and about 2,18 meters high, including its lost frame. In the open state, it displayed a large central image of the Virgin and Child enthroned in the company of saints, flanked by thirty smaller scenes ranging from God Warns Adam about the Tree of Knowledge, through the life of the Virgin Mary and the Passion of Christ, to the Last Judgment, all on gold ground. The small scenes were arranged in three rows of ten, with the subjects progressing chronologically across each row, skipping over the Virgin and Child at centre, from the upper left to the lower right.
The Crucifixion was located at the bottom row of the left wing. It shows the dead Christ on the Cross flanked by the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist. An additional female figure, probably the Virgin's sister Mary Cleophas, stands at the far left.