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Altarpiece with the Passion of Christ: Entombment
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Altarpiece with the Passion of Christ: Entombment

Description Conservation Provenance Credit
Description The Passion of Christ was a popular theme for 15th-century altarpieces in northern Europe. It is the story of Christ's suffering-from his arrest to his Crucifixion-although it was often expanded to include earlier and later events, such as the Entombment (see Walters 37.663, 37.667, 37.668, 37.669, 37.670, 37.671, and 37.674). The figures and settings are treated in a life-like fashion to make the events seem real and the message persuasive. The gold-leaf backdrop embossed to look like damask would have suggested to the 15th-century viewer a heavenly light illuminating eternal truths. When the altarpiece was open, four panels would have been visible on each side of a central carved image, very likely a Resurrection, loosely suggested by the wooden Crucifix hung with the panels in the gallery. Christ is the central figure in each painting. His serenity and restraint contrast with the undignified agitation of his tormentors, expressed in their grimaces and jerky movements. This use of angularity and exaggeration to generate an emotional response in the viewer is characteristic of German art of this period.

Examination and treatment of eight large panel paintings (37.663-64, 37.667-71 and 37.674) led to discoveries into the making of a Gothic altarpiece. Treatment at the museum spanned seven decades, chronicling the changing philosophies of painting conservation in the twentieth century. This investigation reveals a complicated painting technique. A large studio produced the series, oftentimes using incompatible materials and application methods that caused a deterioration pattern, exhibited to some degree on all eight panels. Since entering the museum in the 1930s, all panels have been treated, reflecting shifts in conservation philosophy. By examining these treatments, certain generalizations can be made regarding conservation practices and trends.

Date Description Narrative
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, prior to 1909, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, before 1909

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ca. 1480-1495 (Late Medieval)
oil on panel
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
Framed H: 51 x W: 47 1/8 x W: 2 3/4 in. (129.5 x 119.7 x 7 cm)
Location Within Museum
Centre Street: Third Floor: Lobby

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