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

The Passion (detail)

Oil on limewood
Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

The sinister, faceless malevolents surrounding Christ are only distant cousins to the monstrous degenerates Hieronymus Bosch portrays in his versions of this scene. Holbein is adept at mingling observation of the all too human with the inherent drama of the event; the flickering torchlight, the plausibly vehement figure addressing a squirming Pilate, and Christ's calm resignation enthrall rather than terrify. The elegantly posed guard in half armour in the foreground focuses on the tension between the three central figures seen in profile. Despite antique Roman touches in clothing, the red-haired axe-man on the left might have been seen by Holbein on the Basel streets available for hire as a mercenary for military expeditions into Italy. Mercenaries were one of the region's main economic resources at the time; Urs Graf, a contemporary graphic artist, found employment in their ranks when artistic commissions were scarce.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.