29-3/4 x 21-5/8 in. (panel) approximately 39 x 30-5/8 x 2-1/2 in. (framed)
The Clowes Collection
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In this painting, the crucified Christ is surrounded by groups of figures. To his right, the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene are among the mourners. In contrast, to his left, brutish soldiers ruthlessly cast lots for his garments. Behind the cross stand a monk, a cardinal, and a Turk, who represent the unenlightened—probably included as a critique of the Catholic Church.
As court painter to the electors of Saxony in Wittenberg, who were powerful champions of Martin Luther, Lucas Cranach the Elder resided at the very heart of the emerging Protestant faith. Here, the tensions caused by the religious schism are manifested visually, emphasizing a central tenet of Lutheran theology: that sinful mankind can be reconciled to God only by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
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