Gruenwald – Christ Mocked

This is less monumental than the many-winged Isenheimer Altar at Colmar, which ranks Grunewald among the greatest of German painters. But it is a fairly typical piece, combining two different qualities which he often separated. One is a strange, macabre imagination: akin to Bosch in its love of weird goblin-shapes; Gothic in its love of grotesque, distorted agonies; Gothic also in its power to depict both in a powerful rhythm of twisted line and knotted, lumpish bodies. Another is the command over decorative color, of a blended richness unusual among the Renaissance Germans. The latter he shows also in the large, ornate Sts. Maurice and Erasmus (1044) ; but that is untypical in its bland preoccupation with surface display.

The picture shown has a most original, striking color-pattern of lemon-yellow with gray-blue shadows, white with violet shadows, pale blue, scarlet and deep lustrous violet, finely tinted and yet sharply contrasted. At the same time it has a violent whirl of slashing curved masses, in shallow space, like a carved relief. Grotesque distortions of face and gesture heighten the emotional intensity of the dramatic scene.