oil on panel
support: h 102.5 cm × w 84.5 cm
d 8.5 cm
oil on panel
support: h 102.5 cm × w 84.5 cm
d 8.5 cm
The original support consists of three vertically grained oak planks (25.5, 30.3 and 27.5 cm), approx. 2.1-2.4 cm thick. Strips approx. 0.8 cm wide were added on the left and right sides at a later date (original size: 104.1 x 83.0 cm). The original surface of the planks seems to have been split rather than sawn. The planks were possibly originally joined by two pairs of dovetails, which are now missing. The top of the panel is step-bevelled down to 0.4 cm. Since there is no bevelling at the bottom or on the right and left sides, these edges may have been trimmed slightly. Wood has been removed from the original surface of the reverse down to a thickness of approx. 1 cm, and along the edges (approx. 0.6-0.7 cm), and in two horizontal strips to accommodate horizontal laths, which have now also been removed. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1481. The panel could have been ready for use by 1492 but a date in or after 1506 is more likely. The white ground layer, which appears to be thin, may have been applied when the panel was in its frame. An unpainted edge approx. 1 cm wide and the remains of a barbe are only visible at the top of the panel. Some underdrawn contour lines in a wet medium seem to be visible with the naked eye, in the white horse’s legs, for example. These lines are not visible with infrared reflectography. Perhaps there is some underdrawing in St John’s red robes, but no clear underdrawing could be detected. Although most of the figures were reserved, some areas were painted on top of the underlying paint layers, for example the two figures seated in the right background, the walking man dressed in red on the left, the angels in the sky, and the nose of the man depicted in profile on the right. Gold leaf was applied to several areas, such as the decorations of robes, headdresses, and even for large parts of the clothes of three men. The figures were accentuated with reddish brown contour lines. The painting technique is less refined than in SK-A-1688.
Fair. There is substantial discoloured retouching and overpainted areas, especially in the background. The varnish is also heavily discoloured.
…; from Sir Henry H. Howorth (1842-1923), London, fl. 1,200, as follower of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490, to the museum, 1905
Object number: SK-A-2212
Copyright: Public domain
Master of the Figdor Deposition (active in Haarlem and/or Amsterdam c. 1490-1510)
The Master of the Figdor Deposition acquired his name from The Deposition that was once in the collection of the banker and collector Albert Figdor (1843-1927) in Vienna, and is now lost (see ![fig. a][fig. a]). On the back of that panel was a scene of the martyrdom of St Lucy, which is now in the Rijksmuseum. The original panel was sawn through transversely in the 19th century, separating the two paintings.
Valentiner and Friedländer assigned two Crucifixion scenes to the oeuvre of this anonymous northern Netherlandish artist on the basis of their stylistic similarities to Christ on the Cross (SK-A-2212) and The Martyrdom of St Lucy in Utrecht.1 In 1996, Huys Janssen added a rediscovered panel with The Martyrdom of St Bartholomew in Poeldijk.2 Recent research, however, has demonstrated that the latter may be a youthful work by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen.3
Attempts have been made to identify this anonymous artist. Hoogewerff, for example, suggested that he was Jan Gerritz Swegher, who died in Haarlem in 1514. That, though, is speculative, since Swegher is known only from archival documents, and not a single painting can be attributed to him. The panels by the Master of the Figdor Deposition are clearly influenced by the work of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, which is one reason why he is thought to have been trained in Haarlem. There is also a debt to the painter and printmaker Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, who worked in Amsterdam. Valentiner and Friedländer assumed that the Figdor Master was Jacob Cornelisz’s teacher, but Baldass and Schretlen regarded the work of the anonymous artist as the youthful products of Jacob Cornelisz himself. Both theories are hypothetical, but the affinities with Geertgen and Jacob Cornelisz confirm that the Master of the Figdor Deposition was active in both Haarlem and Amsterdam.
Valentiner 1914, pp. 69-71; Friedländer V, 1927, pp. 56-57, 136; Hoogewerff II, 1937, pp. 211-20; Schretlen 1938, p. 153; Kunze 1939; Vollmer in Thieme/Becker XXXVII, 1950, p. 98; Amsterdam 1958, p. 59, no. 32; ENP V, 1969, pp. 33-34, 77, 96; Châtelet 1981, pp. 136, 138-40, 144, 227-28; Huys Janssen 1996, pp. 163-65; Horsch in Turner 1996, XX, p. 666
Like The Martyrdom of St Lucy (SK-A-1688), this composition with Christ on the Cross is divided into several levels. Christ on the cross is in the centre. Two angels hover around him, catching the blood flowing from the wounds in his hands in golden chalices in an allusion to the Eucharist. In the foreground to the left of the cross are St John, the Virgin, and two other Marys. Mary Magdalen, also on the left, is kneeling at the foot of the cross and is identified by her attribute of the jar of ointment on the ground beside her. On the right are several horsemen, among them the centurion who was later converted, who is pointing up at the crucified Christ with his right hand. His white horse is being held by a small page who is looking out at the viewer. Behind the figure group in the left foreground are Longinus and the centurion, with two shepherds and a man out walking beyond them. In the right middleground are a young man with a halberd and a rider seen from the back. Further towards the background are a courting couple seated under a tree. The figures are set in a hilly stretch of countryside with a walled city in the background. It is dominated on the left by a tower that is similar to that of Utrecht Cathedral. This element led to the suggestion that the commission for the painting came from Utrecht.4
As with The Martyrdom of St Lucy, there are stylistic and compositional elements in this painting which appear to support the theory that the Master of the Figdor Deposition trained in Haarlem and was then active in Amsterdam.5 The split-level composition in a fairly bare landscape with trees whose leaves were painted with short horizontal strokes displays the influence of Geertgen tot Sint Jans’s panels in Vienna.6 It was on those grounds that it was suggested in the past that the Amsterdam painting may be a free copy after the lost centre panel of Geertgen’s high altarpiece for the Knights of St John (‘Sint Jansheeren’) in Haarlem.7
In 1914, Valentiner attributed this Christ on the Cross and a work in Utrecht that is related in style and subject matter to the Master of the Figdor Deposition (fig. a).8 The background of the Utrecht painting has the entry into Jerusalem and the carrying of the cross, and there are twice as many angels around Christ as in the Amsterdam panel. The suspected tower of Utrecht Cathedral is absent in the Utrecht painting. Apart from Mary Magdalen, the foreground figures are almost identical in both works.
The connection between the Master of the Figdor Deposition and Amsterdam is clear if one compares these two variants of Christ on the Cross on the one hand, and Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen’s Crucifixion of c. 1507-10 (SK-A-1967) on the other. The Utrecht composition probably served as the model for the latter. A comparison of the poses and figure types of St John, the Virgin and the woman between her and the cross in both paintings is particularly illustrative. The centurion and his companion on the right in Jacob Cornelisz’s work, including the page holding the white horse, also appear to have been derived from the Master of the Figdor Deposition. In addition, Jacob Cornelisz repeated the scenes of the entry into Jerusalem and the carrying of the cross in the background, as well as the angels. There are also remarkable correspondences in the painting technique which make one suspect that there was a relationship between the anonymous master and Jacob Cornelisz. The way in which both artists surround the hands and faces with reddish brown contours and use painted hatchings in the brocade cloaks and shaded passages in the faces is the same, too. It is for these reasons that the Amsterdam painting is dated somewhat earlier, around 1505, than Jacob Cornelisz’s Crucifixion of c. 1507-10.
From the moment when Valentiner attributed the Amsterdam panel to the Master of the Figdor Deposition, authors have variously regarded it as autograph, a panel from the master’s workshop, or a work by a follower. The Amsterdam and Utrecht paintings of Christ on the Cross and The Martyrdom of St Lucy are unmistakably linked in both composition and style. Nevertheless, the two Crucifixion scenes are less detailed and more coarsely executed than The Martyrdom. Although Friedländer saw a close relationship between the Crucifixion scenes and the work of the Master of the Figdor Deposition, he considered the Utrecht and Amsterdam panels to be ‘fairly inconsequential’ and attributed them to a follower.9 He assigned to the same hand a Nativity in Berlin that is in the same manner and also has an abundance of gold leaf.10 Hoogewerff felt that the Amsterdam painting was better than the one in Utrecht, and thought that the former came from the master’s workshop.11 Since The Deposition from which the master takes his name is lost, and only a few works can be attributed to him, it is difficult to place the Amsterdam panel precisely. Both versions of Christ on the Cross lack the quality of The Martyrdom of St Lucy, but have to be located in the immediate circle of its maker.
Dülberg II, n.d., p. 9 (as school of Geertgen tot Sint Jans); Van Riemsdijk 1906, p. 174 (as school of Geertgen tot Sint Jans); Balet 1910, p. 157 (as school of Geertgen tot Sint Jans); Valentiner 1914, pp. 69-70 (as Master of the Figdor Deposition); Friedländer V, 1927, pp. 57, 136, no. 28 (as follower of Master of the Figdor Deposition; Kessler 1930, p. 54 (as Master of the Figdor Deposition); Hoogewerff II, 1937, pp. 211-14 (as workshop of the Master of the Figdor Deposition); Schretlen 1938, p. 149 (as Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen); Hoogewerff V, 1947, p. 55 (as Master of the Page under the Cross); Snyder 1960, pp. 126-27; ENP V, 1969, p. 34, 77, no. 28; Châtelet 1981, p. 138, no. 107, p. 228 (as Master of the Figdor Deposition)
1907, p. 360, no. 951a; 1918, p. 374, no. 951a (as school of Geertgen tot Sint Jans); 1934, p. 104, no. 951a (as school of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, in the manner of the Master of the Figdor Deposition); 1976, p. 634, no. A 2212