Gosta Stenman (Stockholm)
December 12, 1985
Christie's (London), lot 341
Art Market [Boston]
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Christ Carrying the Cross
Albrecht Altdorfer (German, about 1480 - 1538)
Pen and black ink and gray wash over black chalk
30.3 cm (11 15/16 in.)
A crowd of townsfolk gathers to watch Christ carry the cross to the hill of Golgotha, where he was crucified. Christ falls beneath the weight of the cross in the center of the scene, while a Roman soldier goads him on with the end of his pike and an elderly, bearded Simon tries to assist him.
Albrecht Altdorfer conveyed the scene's drama by packing a monumental, relief-like concentration of figures into a tight space. The crowd presses forward onto the four central figures, wrapping around them and creating a claustrophobic effect. The bold vertical lines of the cross and the soldier's pike lead the viewer's eyes diagonally down to the main image of the kneeling Christ. Altdorfer displayed exceptionally varied line work, particularly in the figure of Christ. There he used strokes of gray wash to emphasize and soften the black ink outline, while in other areas he created shadows with the wash.
Probably part of a series representing the Passion, this is Altdorfer's only surviving design for a stained-glass window.