The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning

Companion paintings

Rogier van der Weyden, Netherlandish (active Tournai and Brussels), 1399/1400 - 1464

Made in Netherlands (historical name, 15th-16th century), Europe

c. 1460

Oil on panel

71 x 73 3/8 inches (180.3 x 186.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 206, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 335,334

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    The innovative conception, sophisticated composition, and singular spiritual intensity of this Crucifixion scene are characteristic of Rogier van der Weyden’s widely influential art. The centrally divided composition encourages contemplation of compassio, the parallel suffering of Christ and his mother. As Christ dies, John the Evangelist stumbles forward to support the collapsing Virgin, whose fumbling, clenched hands simultaneously suggest prayer and anguish, elegantly distilling the scene’s spiritually exalted pathos. Although many scholars believed that these large panels were conceived as an independent diptych, closer study of their construction and the discovery of two paintings originally on their opposite sides (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts Dijon) indicate that this scene occupied the exterior faces of hinged shutters, or wings, that closed over an immense, now-lost altarpiece. Further, the combined stylistic traits found on the Philadelphia paintings—including their shallow pictorial space and bold, full-color composition extending across adjacent panels—links them to winged altarpieces bearing carved wood sculptures on their interiors (see, for example, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1945-25-117,a--s). The monumentality and iconic starkness of these paintings would have provided striking counterpoints to the teeming forms and glittering opulence of the painted and gilded sculpture groups revealed when the wings were opened. Esteemed as an extraordinarily affecting object of contemplation and devotion in its own right, this imposing masterwork, part of the John G. Johnson Collection at the Museum, merits additional consideration as a brilliant threshold and deeply sympathetic foil to sculpture. Mark S. Tucker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 98–99.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    The greatest old master painting in the Museum, Rogier van der Weyden's diptych presents the Crucifixion as a timeless dramatic narrative. To convey overwhelming depths of human emotion, Rogier located monumental forms in a shallow, austere, nocturnal space accented only by brilliant red hangings. He focused on the experience of the Virgin, her unbearable grief expressed by her swooning into the arms of John the Evangelist. The intensity of her anguish is echoed in the agitated, fluttering loincloth that moves around Christ's motionless body as if the air itself were astir with sorrow. Rogier's use of two panels in a diptych, rather than the more usual three found in a triptych, is rare in paintings of this period, and allowed the artist to balance the human despair at the darkest hour of the Christian faith against the promise of redemption. Katherine Crawford Luber, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 167.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.