The Suffering Depicted

In a special exhibition the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart will devote itself to one of the central themes of Christian art: the Passion of Christ. Hans Holbein the Elder executed his The Grey Passion, a work consisting of altogether twelve panels, between 1494 and 1500. The Staatsgalerie succeeded in purchasing this major work by Holbein in 2003 with the help of a large-scale fundraising campaign. In preparation for the exhibition, the twelve panels are presently undergoing thorough restoration and in-depth examination. An encounter replete with superlatives awaits the viewer. The exhibition will show Holbein’s Passion of Christ series in the context of panel paintings and graphic series on the same theme by important predecessors and contemporaries of the artist such as Dirk Bouts, the Master of Frankfurt, Martin Schongauer, the Master AG, Israhel van Meckenem and others. Against this background, the compact emotionality and compositional coherence with which Holbein interpreted the history of Christ’s sufferings will become apparent to a very special degree. With his formally calm compositions and his idealized figure of Christ, the painter was already anticipating a pictorial ideal of the Renaissance. Placing his confidence entirely in his own artistic possibilities, Holbein departed from traditional pictorial forms and avoided the drastic style of description which characterizes the Passion of Christ by many of his forerunners.