National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Small Crucifixion Matthias Grünewald (artist)
German, c. 1475/1480 - 1528
The Small Crucifixion, c. 1511/1520
oil on panel
overall: 61.3 x 46 cm (24 1/8 x 18 1/8 in.) framed: 74.4 x 59 x 2.5 cm (29 5/16 x 23 1/4 x 1 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.19
Not on View
From the Tour: German Painting and Sculpture in the Late 1400s and 1500s
Object 7 of 12

Conservation Notes

The painting is composed of three vertical boards.[1] As viewed from the recto, the widths of the boards are approximately 11.8 cm, 11.5 cm, and 21.6 cm wide, from right to left. There is a shallow sawdust fill on the verso along the right-hand join. The left board contains two rectangular inserts that are probably replacements for knotholes. The panel is warped in a continuous convex curve and has suffered worm infestation. On the verso, which has been thinned, a series of shallow saw kerfs form a diamond pattern. Original paint extends to the edges of the support, and earlier reports of an unpainted border approximately 1 cm wide suggest that the panel edges may have been trimmed.[2] Examination with infrared reflectography did not disclose underdrawing. X-radiography reveals that the undermodeling in John's robes originally described different folds and contours. The little finger of the Virgin's proper left hand has been shortened, and the right contour of Christ's loincloth has been altered.

Most of the figures are intact despite damage and numerous areas of retouching and abrasion. There are four roughly circular losses in John's robe and a large irregular loss in the sky to the left of Christ's torso. There are small scattered losses throughout and abrasion of the paint surface, particularly in the background landscape.

The painting was restored in 1922.[3] In 1936 the letters mg were revealed at the top of the cross as a result of restoration; these are in all likelihood a composite of an old and a more recent retouching.[4]


[1] The wood was identified as linden by Peter Klein, examination report, 29 September 1987, in NGA curatorial files.
[2] Schoenberger 1922, 36, and Zülch 1938, 325, mention unpainted edges; Schoenberger states that a chalk ground extended over the unpainted edges.
[3] Schoenberger 1922, 35-36, describes the painting's condition.
[4] According to Zülch 1938, 325, the painting was treated twice before it was restored by Otto Klein in 1936. See also the memorandum recording a conversation between William P. Campbell and Otto Klein, 8 May 1970, in NGA curatorial files; and Saran and Schmeidler 1974, 212-213, based on an interview with Klein in 1965. The letters mg were accepted as autograph by Zülch 1938, 325, and many subsequent authors. Kress 1956, 100, suggested that the letters were from the seventeenth century and stood for "Mathis Grünewald." I am grateful to Laetitia Yeandle, curator of manuscripts, Folger Shakespeare Library, for her paleographic observations.

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