The Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion (1536)

Cranach, Lucas the Elder (1472-1553)

The Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion
Oil on panel, 50.8 x 34.6 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

An armored man on horseback looks up at the middle of three men hanging on rough-hewn wooden crosses placed along on a low, stony hill against a dark sky in this vertical painting. All the people have pale skin, and the crucified men wear white loincloths wrapped around their hips. The man on the central cross, Jesus, has a close-cropped beard and a ring of thorns around his scraggly, reddish-brown hair. His head tilts to our left and his eyes roll up under knit brows, his mouth slack. His long loincloth swirls in the wind on either side of his knees. Each hand is nailed to the cross, and his overlapping feet are nailed with a third. The letters “INRI” are inscribed on a strip of paper above the cross. The men on the other crosses have more tanned skin and the crosses are angled inward to face Jesus. Both men have reddish beards and short hair, and their loincloths are tightly tied. The man to our left has a lean build and looks at Jesus so is seen in profile. The man to our right turns his head away, to face us, and has a heavier build. At the foot of the central cross, the silvery-gray horse faces our right in profile as it rears up with its front legs lifted. The rider wears pewter-gray armor with a ruby-red, wide-brimmed hat with a ring of puffy, white feathers along its edge. The rider has short, flax-colored hair and a trimmed beard. He looks up at Jesus with mouth open and raises his right hand, with the first two fingers raised. Pleated red fabric hangs from his right hip, and the gold hilt of a sword hangs off the opposite hip. The hill is lunar-gray and scattered with stones. The sky behind the hill and crosses deepens from buttercup yellow along the hill to marigold orange, blush pink, and a wider band of indigo blue. The top half of the sky is filled with heavy, roiling, steel-gray clouds that darken to black along the top edge. A line of German text painted with pale yellow is placed near the horseman’s mouth, and it reads, “WARLICH DISER MENSCH IST GOTES SVN GEWEST.” A second line of text appears near the top center, over Jesus’s cross: “VATER IN DEIN HET BEFIL ICH MEIN GAIST.” (NGA)