Friday, March 18, 2011

Green Passion: Christ before Caiaphas

Title: Green Passion: Christ before Caiaphas
Artist: Albrecht Dürer
Medium: Pen drawing on green primed paper
Size: 28.3 x 17.8 cm
Date: 1504
Location: Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

John 18:18-24 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

The Green Passion, so named after the green primed paper, consists of twelve sheets, the purpose of which is not known. It has been assumed that they were used as preliminary sketches for stained glass windows. Like the other pictures, the sheet of Christ before Caiaphas distinguishes itself through its fine white highlights which achieve a magical plasticity and dramatic lighting - as was created by the "clair-obscur" technique - in their harmony with the green base color of the scene. Christ and Pilate, the two antagonists in the foreground, are positioned opposite each other and emphasized both by the lighting and the architecture.

Albrecht Dürer (May 1471 – April 1528) was a painter and printmaker, generally regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist. His vast body of work includes altarpieces and religious works, numerous portraits and self-portraits, and copper engravings. Dürer was a Roman Catholic, although his writings suggest that he may have been sympathetic to Martin Luther's ideas. Dürer wrote of his desire to draw Luther in his diary in 1520: "And God help me that I may go to Dr. Martin Luther; thus I intend to make a portrait of him with great care and engrave him on a copper plate to create a lasting memorial of the Christian man who helped me overcome so many difficulties." His success in spreading his reputation across Europe through prints was undoubtedly an inspiration for major artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Parmigianino, who entered into collaborations with printmakers to distribute their work beyond their local region.

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