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Audio Stop 532

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Three pale-skinned people stand around a cross from which hangs the twisted and bloodied body of a nearly nude man, Jesus, set in a dark, rocky landscape in this vertical painting. Jesus wears a ring of spiky thorns on his head and a white loincloth encircles his waist. His white skin is tinted green and covered all over with short red gashes. His body hangs heavily from his hands, which are nailed to the cross so his arms make a shallow Y shape. His head hangs down, and his eyes and mouth are open. His feet coil around a nail near the base of the cross. A man wearing a crimson red garment under a pale blue and pink robe stands to our right facing the cross. He has blond hair, white skin, red rings around his eyes, and his fingers are tightly interlaced and twisted in an exaggerated prayer. One woman stands to our left, wearing a teal and brown robe that covers her bowed head. She gazes down beyond her clasped hands and her mouth is downturned. A second woman wearing an ash-purple garment over a raspberry pink robe kneels at the cross to our left. She holds her hands up at her chest as she looks up at the person on the cross, her mouth open wide. Rocky outcroppings rise along either side of the painting in the landscape, and a house is seen at the center beyond the cross. A dark disc covers a small bright moon in the dark blue, nighttime sky.

Matthias Grünewald

The Small Crucifixion, c. 1511/1520

West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 35A

Silhouetted against a greenish-blue sky and illuminated by an undefined light source, Jesus’s emaciated frame sags limply on the cross. His twisted feet and hands, crown of thorns, agonized expression, and ragged loincloth convey the terrible physical and emotional suffering he has endured. The mood is intensified by the anguished faces and demonstrative gestures of John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary, and the kneeling Mary Magdalene. Matthias Grünewald’s dissonant, eerie colors are both expressive and rooted in the biblical narrative. The murky sky, for instance, corresponds to Luke’s description of “a darkness over all the earth” at the time of the crucifixion.

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