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Altarpiece with Scenes of the Passion

c. 1535
Artist/maker unknown, Flemish Paintings attributed to a follower of Pieter Coecke van Aelst (Netherlandish (active Antwerp), 1502–1550) Sculpture attributed to the workshop of Master of the Oplinter Altarpiece (Flemish)

This elaborate altarpiece depicts scenes from Jesus’s life. The Crucifixion in the center is flanked by carvings of scenes from the Passion (the events of Jesus’s final days on Earth) with insets of moments prefiguring Jesus’s suffering. On the predella (base), paintings emphasize the idea of Communion (the ritual of sharing bread and wine in Jesus’s memory). Priests would have stood beneath these scenes when celebrating Mass at the altar.

Antwerp workshops followed a standardized formula for these impressive altarpieces. Using prefabricated components and depicting similar themes meant these altarpieces were not exorbitantly expensive. This one was purchased for the chapel at the château of Pagny in Burgundy in the 1530s. Its gilded figures would have lent a note of brilliant color to the stony chapel. Its origin was largely forgotten until its acquisition by the museum, where it was reunited with the choir screen from the same chapel (1930-1-84a–d).

Object Details

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