The Crucifixion of the Christ
The Crucifixion of the Christ
The Crucifixion of the Christ
The Crucifixion of the Christ

Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724-1796)

Oil paint

Dom Museum Wien
On loan from the St. Jacob Parish Church, Vienna


Oil paint
Oil painting

Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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The Crucifixion of the Christ

This early painting by baroque master Franz Anton Maulbertsch is a very dramatic rendering of the Crucifixion ot the Christ.

From our slightly elevated side box seats we are quite close to the stage where the drama of Christ’s crucifixion will take its course. Directly in front of us the harshly lit group of soldiers are throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. The white horse behind it, which seems to enjoy the limelight, carries the Roman centurion who identifies Jesus as the son of God.
The high priest who sentenced Jesus to death looms large at the far right of the picture. The three crosses with Jesus and the two criminals sentenced to die along with him rise high in the deep of the natural terrain. Jesus is illuminated and warmed by sunbeams in the last minutes of his life. We see the vinegar sponge being prepared behind the cross. Longinus poses self-confidently with his back to the viewer in the left foreground. He will soon step forward and thrust his lance into Jesus’ side to ascertain his death. Longinus has something of a director savoring his composition which encompasses all persons and events around Jesus’ death in a semicircle. Below the stage-like elevation to the far left we find Joseph of Arimathea in the semi-darkness; he will make the tomb he prepared for himself available for the burial of Jesus. The tiny ointment vessel in the middle of the ground strikes us as something forlorn. It will not serve its purpose: Christ will have risen from the dead, when the women will visit his tomb on Easter Sunday.

By assigning us a place on the side, Franz Anton Maulbertsch, one of the greatest late Baroque masters, does not offer us a free view of the central subject of this early work. He rather draws our attention to numerous secondary scenes and figures by the way he illuminates the scene and positions its actors. The terrace-like mound turns the event into a stage play which does not really invite the viewer’s emotional involvement.