Dudley P. Allen Fund 1980.93
Catalogue raisonné: Hollstein 56
Baldung, who lived in Strasbourg, was Albrecht Dürer's most talented pupil. A highly original artist, he produced about 550 woodcuts. The origin of his nickname, Grien, to which the G in his monogram refers, is unclear. It may allude to his predilection for the color green, or it may derive from Grienhans, meaning devil (demonic fantasies appear in some of the artist's works). Baldung often avoided conventional compositions in favor of an innovative depiction of greater pathos and drama. Although a living Christ had long been shown ascending to heaven, Baldung's representation—in which Christ's corpse is carried heavenward by angels—is unprecedented. In contrast to the celestial splendor at the top of this composition, where God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit are illuminated by a burst of radiant light, Christ is shown in a harshly awkward position, accentuating his torment and suffering. The angels labor to carry the heavy body, which appears to be sinking downward, reminiscent of scenes of the entombment, in which Christ is lowered into a grave. This devotional image gives visual form to one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith, the contradiction between Christ's human suffering and his divine nature, symbolized by the grandeur of heaven.
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