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Perilous Night Jasper Johns  

Perilous Night detail  by
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Perilous Night (diagram, 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
Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece (detail of soldier), 1512-1516, oil on panel, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, photograph by O. Zimmermann


Johns wondered if the figure was expressive in its very structure, beyond its role in the altarpiece. To explore this possibility, he traced it from a reproduction, turned it ninety degrees, reversed it, and painted his own version in shadowed tones with purple outlines. Its abstract presentation adds a perceptually unsettling quality to the image.

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