The Descent from the Cross is a very popular iconographic theme. The moment is particularly moving : on the evening of his death, the body of Christ is detached from the cross by those close to him. If the Gospels, after the death of Jesus, cover his entombment by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they say nothing about the descent of his body from the cross.
This theme nevertheless inspired many artists very early on.
The carved wood that we present has four persons, each having a specific role in this heavy task.
Thus, at the top left, Joseph of Arimathea, recognizable by his winding hat, a sign of his great wealth, removes with the help of pliers the nail driven into Jesus’ right hand.
Two ladders are arranged on either side of the cross, allowing the other three persons to delicately descend the body of Christ.
Mount Golgotha, which can be translated as “Place of the Skull” is represented by two small shrubs with leaves typically treated in the German way. A skull is carved at the base of the cross recalling the tragic aspect of this place.
The pyramidal composition is based on a play of diagonals visible by the two scales, accentuating the slow movement of the descent of the body.
This beautiful piece of German sculpture undoubtedly comes from a larger ensemble forming an altarpiece. This theme and its dramatic treatment fall within the guidelines of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which engages in fostering the empathy of the faithful in the face of the life of Christ, from his childhood to his Passion.