This sculptural group featuring Saint John the Evangelist resting on the shoulder of Christ was a prolific subject in Swabia, the region on the Swiss border. The subject appears to be unique to this region, where it became popular in the years following 1300. This sculpture is artistically among the finest to survive. Many of these devotional sculptures adorned the chapels of Dominican convents. The sculpture captures the pathos of the moment, based on the Gospel of John (13:23), which states that during the Last Supper one of Christâ€™s disciples, namely "whom Jesus loved," was resting on his shoulder.
The Devotional Image and German Mysticism
As a focus for devotion and contemplation, this sculpture reflects the fundamental religious beliefs rooted in the mysticism that dominated the period. Mysticism was a movement that intended to stimulate the contemplation of Christâ€™s Passion and suffering. Mysticism encouraged private devotion and religious images, called andachtsbilder (devotional images), appeared in large numbers in late medieval Germany.