The Crucifixion
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German, probably Franconia, about 1475 - 1500
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
15 1/4 x 9 9/16 in.

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The dead Christ, his body emaciated and his face tinged green, hangs on a monumental cross on Calvary. Angels at his wrists and feet capture his blood in golden chalices. Below, the sorrowful mother of Jesus lowers her head, closes her eyes, and crosses her hands over her bosom, a stoic figure of great dignity. Opposite her, John the Evangelist also stands quietly, his right arm over his heart. Contrasting with these still figures, the drapery of the angels and Christ above flutters and billows expressively, full of movement. Similarly expressive details such as Christ's protruding ribs and his taut, strained arms encourage the viewer's empathic response to the Crucifixion. Jerusalem appears in the background, envisioned as a bustling German city.

The presence of the angels capturing Christ's blood is traditional in German Crucifixion images from around 1500 and relates to the sacrament of Holy Communion. In the ritual of Communion, the body and blood of Christ are understood to be present in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine. This miniature may have come from a missal and served appropriately as the prefatory image to the Canon of the Mass, read while the priest prepares the bread and wine for the Eucharist.