Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Glorification of the Cross

Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)
Glorification of the Cross c.1605
part of The Frankfurt Altarpiece of the Exaltation of the True Cross
Oil on copper,
19 x 14 1/8 inches (48.5 x 36 cm)
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

The work can be seen in its full glory on the website of Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

The picture above is regarded as the masterpiece of Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)

He was a German artist working in Rome who died at only thirty-two, but was very influential in the early 17th century.

He converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism while living in Rome. He married there and had one son.

Unfortunately he appears to have suffered from some kind of depressive illness. His output was small. He lived in financial streights.

In early 1600, he arrived in Rome. He played a crucial part in the formation of three of the most important artists of the seventeenth century: Rubens, Rembrandt and Claude Lorrain

Rubens was a friend of Elsheimer and after his death lamented what he saw as his `sin of sloth,(probably caused by depression) by which he has deprived the world of the most beautiful things'; he also wrote `I have never seen his equal in the realm of small figures, of landscapes, and of so many other subjects.'

In this picture we see that

"The cross as the focal point of the "gloria del paradiso" is revered by the saints and the elect of the heavenly realm who surround the cross on banks of clouds. On the right, we recognize the patriarchs, including Moses, Abraham and King David. We also see Jonas sitting on the fish, looking up towards the cross, and St Catherine and Mary Magdalene in a sisterly embrace. In the foreground, there is a disputation between St Sebastian and Pope Gregory, St Jerome, St Ambrose and St Augustine, with the first Christian martyrs St Stephen and St Laurence. The cross, clutched by a kneeling female figure who is probably an embodiment of Faith, is surrounded by angels bearing the instruments of the Passion, above which we can make out the Evangelists and Apostles. At the head of a procession of angels streaming into the dazzling light of the background, which is flooded with an overwhelming brightness, we can see the Coronation of the Virgin."
(Web Gallery of Art)