MASTER of Flémalle
(b. ca. 1375, Valenciennes, d. 1444, Tournai)

The Crucified Thief

c. 1410
Oil on wood, 33 x 92,5 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

In his Nativity the Master of Flémalle (Robert Campin) proved himself a sensitive painter of landscape, who knew how to portray the atmospheric subtleties of light and air; but he does not always use nature as the background for his compositions. In the Crucified Thief, the one surviving panel of a lost altarpiece, he resorts to the archaic device of a gold background, contrasting its abstraction with the marked individuality of the figures. The thief's face is contorted with pain, and the wounds where the cords have cut into the flesh are rendered in an extraordinarily brutal manner. The Roman soldiers looking on, particularly the one whose curly hair is held back by a white band and who is placing one hand on his heart, are portrayed with a realism that was at that time outstanding.

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