Christ Carrying the Cross

Artist: Martin Schongauer (German, Colmar ca. 1435/50–1491 Breisach)

Date: ca. 1475–80

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: 11 3/8 x 16 7/8in. (28.9 x 42.9cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Purchase, The Sylmaris Collection, Gift of George Coe Graves, by exchange, 1935

Accession Number: 35.27


The largest and most painterly of his prints, Christ Carrying the Cross is Schongauer's masterpiece. This engraving depicting Christ's procession to Golgotha is the artist's most visually complex. He created a spectrum of tones from white to gray to black by altering the density of the hatching. Throughout the print, he masterfully offset light and dark areas: for example, he placed the fully shaded figures on the right against a landscape delineated only by outlines and did almost the reverse with the boy in the lower left, situated in front of an area of shadowed ground. Schongauer was inspired by a painting of the subject by Jan van Eyck, now lost and known only through copies, and similarly created an image packed with lively characterizations of exotic figures and incidental detail. Yet he pushed the entire procession to the foreground and, as in devotional icons, he turned Christ's head to confront the viewer, emphasizing man's identification with Christ's suffering.