Sunday, July 5, 2009

Christ Carrying the Cross

Title: Christ Carrying the Cross
Artist: Martin Schongauer
Medium: Engraving
Size: 28.9 x 42.9 cm
Date: c.1480
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Depicting events presented in John 19:17, Schongauer's masterpiece Christ Carrying the Cross is the largest and most painterly of his prints. As described in the Gospel: “Jesus was taken away, and he carried his cross to a place known as ‘The Skull’. In Hebrew this place is called ‘Golgotha’.”

This engraving depicting Christ's procession to Golgotha is the artist's most visually complex. He created a spectrum of tones from white to gray to black by altering the density of the hatching. Throughout the print, he masterfully offset light and dark areas: for example, he placed the fully shaded figures on the right against a landscape delineated only by outlines and did almost the reverse with the boy in the lower left, situated in front of an area of shadowed ground. As in devotional icons, he turned Christ's head to confront the viewer, emphasizing man's identification with Christ's suffering.

Martin Schongauer (c. 1448 – 2 February 1491) was a German engraver and painter. His prints were circulated widely and Schongauer was known in Italy by the names, Bel Martino and Martino d'Anversa. He established the system of depicting volume by means of cross-hatching (lines in two directions) which was further developed by Dürer, and was the first engraver to curve parallel lines, probably by rotating the plate against a steady burin.

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