UNKNOWN MASTER, German
(active 1480-1500)

Altarpiece with the Passion of Christ: Christ Mocked

1480-95
Oil on panel, 130 x 118 cm
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

The Passion of Christ was a popular theme for 15th-century altarpieces in northern Europe. It is the story of Christ's suffering - from his arrest to his Crucifixion - although it was often expanded to include earlier and later events, such as the Entombment. The figures and settings are treated in a life-like fashion to make the events seem real and the message persuasive. The gold-leaf backdrop embossed to look like damask would have suggested to the 15th-century viewer a heavenly light illuminating eternal truths. When the altarpiece was open, four panels would have been visible on each side of a central carved image, very likely a Resurrection.

Christ is the central figure in each painting. His serenity and restraint contrast with the undignified agitation of his tormentors, expressed in their grimaces and jerky movements. This use of angularity and exaggeration to generate an emotional response in the viewer is characteristic of German art of this period.




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