(b. ca. 1480, Schwäbisch Gmnd, d. 1526, Pforzheim)

Flagellation of Christ

Oil tempera on wood, 262 x 143 cm
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

The Flagellation is a wing of the Herrenbeg Altar in Herrenberg parish church. The Herrenberg Altar reflects the religious and social unrest of its day with a directness unequalled in any other work of German painting. Here, at an early point in time, the harmony of the High Renaissance has been destroyed in every respect. The panels of the altar, which is signed 1519, depict scenes from the childhood and Passion of Christ. A fantastical rotunda provides the architectural framework not just for the Flagellation in the centre, but also for Christ's crowning with thorns (front right), presentation to the populace (on the steps in the background) and interrogation by Pilate (on the top storey).

With no knowledge of Italian art, the artist takes up some of the fundamental principles of Florentine Early Mannerism: the disruption of logical spatial relationships through the use of drastic foreshortening and enormous differences in scale between the figures; an asymmetrical composition combined with an emphatic spiralling movement around the central pillar; the distortion of natural proportions to heighten expressiveness; and finally a bright, iridescent palette.

With its manifold foreshortenings, vistas and staggered levels, the complex architecture might be seen as a distant forerunner of the visionary, surreal interiors of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons).