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North Netherlandish School, circa 1490
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North Netherlandish School, circa 1490

The Crucifixion

Details
North Netherlandish School, circa 1490
The Crucifixion
oil on panel
11¾ x 8¼ in. (29.9 x 21 cm.)
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Lot Essay

Despite its very evident quality of execution, no attribution has yet been established for this painting. That it comes from the North Netherlands is evident in its close stylistic connections with the works of Geertgen tot Sint Jans and his circle, including notably the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines and the Master of Alkmaar, to which latter hand this was formerly given. The number of Dutch paintings surviving from this period is, of course, relatively small, and this does not help attributional research; however, it would appear that two other works are identifiable by the same hand. Depicting The Deposition and The Lamentation, images of both are filed in the Witt Library as having been in the Vienich collection, Bonn (Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 1933, II, 2, p. 124), in which they were also erroneously attributed to the Master of Alkmaar.

The compositions of all three paintings share a distinctive inventiveness as well as originality of expression in the faces of the subjects. Partly in consequence, it is hard to establish any clear model or prototypes for the paintings. There is, as might be expected for a work of this period, a debt to Rogier van der Weyden - seen in the present picture in elements such as the ends of Christ's loincloth waving out on either side of His figures, or in the figures of the swooning Virgin, Saint John and attendant. The latter motif derives ultimately from the Prado Deposition, although a further development towards the present grouping might be seen in the Deposition by a workshop hand or follower of Rogier in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich (see M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, II, Leiden and Brussels, 1967, no. 95, pl. 111).

Also interesting is a possible link with engravings by the Dutch Master I.A.M. of Zwolle, who was active in Antwerp and, after circa 1480, the Delft-Haarlem region, where he was influenced by the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines. The general composition of the present work loosely recalls the slightly simpler arrangement of the Calvary by the latter of circa 1480, including the figure seen gesticulating from the side on the right of the picture. This might by itself be too coincidental to draw any conclusions, but the additional correlation between the distinctive figure of the Magdalen kneeling in supplication before the Cross in the Vienich Deposition and the Master I.A.M.'s Large Calvary with the Horsemen, also of circa 1480, suggest that some sort of influence is evident.
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