The Crucifixion (1498) by Albrecht Durer

The Crucifixion - Albrecht Durer - 1498

Artwork Information

TitleThe Crucifixion
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationAlbertina, Vienna, Austria

About The Crucifixion

“The Crucifixion” is a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer created in 1498 as part of “The Large Passion” series. This Northern Renaissance artwork falls under the religious painting genre and is currently housed in the Albertina, Vienna, Austria.

The artwork itself is a striking black and white composition that showcases Dürer’s mastery of the woodcut medium, portraying the biblical scene of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. In the center, Christ is depicted on the cross, with a prominent “INRI” inscription above his head, which stands for “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). His body is central to the composition and is detailed with care, showing the artist’s deep understanding of human anatomy.

To the left and right of Jesus, angels are flying, clearly in distress as they catch Christ’s blood in chalices, symbolizing the holy sacrament. A sun and crescent moon are respectively visible in the top corners, representing the cosmic significance of the event.

Beneath the cross, a gathering of figures is depicted, which likely includes some of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John, as they are traditionally present at the Crucifixion. Their faces are full of sorrow, and they are dressed in garments indicative of the time period, with folds and drapery that reveal Dürer’s attention to detail and texture.

The scene also includes some soldiers and onlookers, each characterized by individual expressions and reactions to the momentous event. On the right, a mounted soldier on a richly adorned horse observes the scene, perhaps symbolizing the involvement of the Roman authority in the crucifixion.

The setting includes a detailed landscape in the background, with trees and distant hills, which adds depth to the scene and places the event in a broader context. Dürer’s ability to depict a range of textures, from the wood of the cross to the foliage and fabrics, is evident throughout the work.

The woodcut is densely packed with figures and detail, hallmarks of Dürer’s style, as well as the intricate line work characteristic of the period and the artist’s skill. Overall, Dürer’s “The Crucifixion” serves as a powerful visual narrative of one of the pivotal moments in Christian theology.

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