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The Crucifixion
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Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.
MS. LUDWIG IX 19, FOL. 190V

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The re-telling of Jesus' Passion in this prayer book climaxes with this intimate yet powerful image of the Crucifixion. Jesus hangs on the cross, suspended above the heads of his followers on the left and the Roman soldiers on the right. The Virgin Mary lowers her head in acceptance of his fate; her closed eyes suggest the depth of her grief. Below Jesus, Mary Magdalene kneels, clinging to the cross and wailing in anguish.

Presented in an illusionistic architectural frame that almost turns the miniature into a small, framed altarpiece, the image focuses meditation on Jesus' suffering. Mary Magdalene, shown from behind, shares the viewers' vantage point, encouraging them to identify with her sorrow. Both the image and the text opposite, a meditation on the Crucifixion, serve to bring the reader to a closer, more direct understanding of the Passion.

Reproducing the scene as described in the Gospels, the artist Simon Bening painted an evocative nocturnal landscape, setting the tone for the mournful event. Skulls at the foot of the cross, identifying the site as Mount Golgotha, further contribute to the eeriness.