collection
oilpainting: 76,7 cm x 83,5 cm
1902-H

Christ Carrying the Cross is one of Jheronimus Bosch’s late works. The artist has stripped this intriguing composition, in which the struggle between good and evil is the central theme, of any sense of space. Christ’s head is surrounded by a dynamic group of grotesque “tronies” or faces. While the composition may seem chaotic at first glance, its structure is actually very rigid and formal. Christ’s head is positioned precisely at the intersection of two diagonals. The beam of the cross forms one diagonal, with the figure of Simon of Cyrene at the top left, and with the “bad” murderer to the bottom right. The other diagonal connects the imprint of Christ’s face on Veronicas sudarium at the bottom left with the penitent thief, at the top right. He is attacked by an evil charlatan or a Pharisee and an evil monk, a clear allusion by Bosch to the religious fanaticism of his era. The grotesque heads remind us of the masks that are often used in passion plays as well as of Leonardo da Vinci’s caricatures. By way of contrast, the softly modelled face of Christ is serene. He is the Suffering Christ, who has been abandoned by everyone and who shall triumph over all evil in the world. This representation ties in perfectly with the ideas of the lay brotherhoods, of which Bosch was also a member. Although the attribution to Bosch is still disputed, this painting undoubtedly is one of the most hallucinatory scenes ever created in the history of Western art.