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Perilous Night Jasper Johns  

Perilous Night detail  by Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Perilous Night (detail of left side), 1982, encaustic on canvas with objects, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection 1995.79.1

Isenheim Altarpiece detail by Matthias Grunewald
Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece (detail), 1512-1516, oil on panel, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, photograph by O. Zimmermann



Fortunately, Johns revealed the source for this half of Perilous Night because even the most astute art historian would have been hard-pressed to discover it.

The image is derived from Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, a powerful, expressive painting depicting scenes from the lives of Christ and Saint Anthony. Johns became engrossed with a detail from the painting, the figure of a soldier whose body twists dramatically after being struck down by the brilliant light emanating from the resurrected Christ.

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