The Crucifixion

Object Details


The Crucifixion


Hans von Aachen (German, 1552 - 1615)






Pen and brown ink and gray wash, heightened with white gouache, over black chalk


33.3 × 45.9 cm (13 1/8 × 18 1/16 in.)

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A diagonal line follows the diminishing figures, from the looming body of the good thief at the extreme left edge, to Christ hanging on the cross in the center, to the bad thief at the right, and finally down toward Jerusalem, lightly sketched in the distance. A tumultuous group of figures and horses crowds around the feet of Jesus at the left, with rearing horses, the Virgin weeping, and Saint John pointing at himself; but the top left of the composition remains open. With such techniques, Hans von Aachen created an effect of dramatic spaciousness.

Von Aachen probably made this large and impressive drawing as a preliminary study for a painting. He first sketched the composition extensively in black chalk, which is particularly visible in the torso and hand of the thief in the upper left corner and in the city of Jerusalem in the lower right. Next he laid in the figure groups in gray wash, making extensive use of the white paper for highlights; finally, he worked over the entire composition, defining elements with relatively sparing touches of pen and brown ink.

Central European Drawings of the 16th and 17th Centuries (March 2 to May 9, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 2 to May 9, 1993
Figural Compositional Drawings from the 16th to the 19th Century (August 31 to December 8, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), August 31 to December 8, 1996
Between Heaven and Earth: Images of Christ and the Virgin (March 19 to June 29, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 19 to June 29, 2003
The Poetry of Paper (July 23 to October 20, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 23 to October 20, 2013