Master of the Blumenthal Passion (Netherlandish, first third of 16th century)
Oil on wood; 11 3/4 x 11 3/8 in. (29.8 x 28.9 cm)
Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941 (41.190.14)
This panel was probably the center of a small triptych, which would have aided its owner in the empathetic experience of Christ's Passion. It reflects the popularity of texts such as the Pseudo-Bonaventure's Meditations on the Life of Christ, which recommended pious contemplation of the individual events of Jesus' life as an effective form of devotional practice. The four delicately painted miniature scenes on this panel represent pivotal events from the Passionclockwise from the upper left: the Agony in Garden of Gethsemane, Christ Bearing the Cross, the Crucifixion, and the Lamentation. The episodes are divided by elaborate fictive frames that illusionistically project statuettes of Old Testament prophets standing in niches beneath elaborate Gothic canopies. This diminutive fragment was originally part of a larger triptych ensemble, and may have included a Noli Me Tangere (now in a private collection in Switzerland) that retains parts of an identical decorative framing design. The compositions and figure types displayed here suggest the hand of an artist strongly influenced by Bernaert van Orley, while the poses and gestures of the figures reveal a close study of Dürer's engravings. Whatever the identity of this intriguing master, his work reflects the value placed on intimate devotional experience in the age of the Reformation.