The Berger Collection


English School
The Crucifixion, ca. 1395
Oil on panel
Inscribed, memento:mei:dne / vere:filius:dei:erat:iste
Overall size: 39 3/4 x 22 in. (101 x 55.7 cm); painted area: 36 1/2 x 19 in. (92.5 x 48.5 cm)

Click here to view and save the image.

This painting is one of the only Norman altarpieces outside England. Christ is shown nailed to the cross, wearing a crown of thorns. His side is pierced and blood pours from his wounds. Beneath him are a group of soldiers and onlookers; on either side of him are the two thieves. According to the Gospels, one of the thieves challenged Christ to prove he was the son of God by saving them all. The other thief rebuked him saying that as criminals they deserved to be punished, whereas Christ had done nothing wrong. In this picture, the "good" thief, Dismas, appears on the left, facing the viewer, and the "bad" thief, Gestas, is on the right, facing away. A scroll of Latin script descends from the mouth of the good thief with the words: memento:mei:dne (Remember me Lord); Christ responded to his plea by saying: "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." On the left, the swooning Virgin Mary is supported by one of the holy women, probably Mary Magdalene or Mary, wife of Cleophas, both of whom are mentioned in the Gospels as being present at the Crucifixion. Behind her, the beardless figure of St. John the Evangelist gazes up at Jesus while reaching out to support the mother of Christ. On the other side of the cross stands a Roman centurion, depicted as a fashionable fourteenth-century gentleman, a scroll issuing from his right hand with the words Vere filius dei erat iste (Truly this was a son of God). According to the Gospels, these words were spoken at the moment of Christ's death.


Provenance

Claude Lafontaine, Paris; his sale, Paris, Galliera, April 11, 1962, lot 5; bought by Arthur Kauffman, London; by whom sold to M. H. Drey, London; p rivate collection, Germany; Sotheby's, London, July 3, 1997, lot 53

Bibliography

P. Pieper, "Eine unbekannte Kreuzigungstafel der englischen Gotik," Pantheon, 1994, pp. 5-9; J. Nadolny, Technologia Artis (the technical bulletin of the National Gallery in Prague), forthcoming; Professor M. Michaels, forthcoming article


See Artist Profile