The road to Calvary
Given by Arthur W. Young 1934
Schongauer was the first great artist to realize the potential of printmaking. He successfully applied his combined knowledge of metalworking (learned from his father, a goldsmith) and his training as a painter to the medium of engraving. This print depicts Jesus and the two thieves on route from Jerusalem to Golgotha, the place of their execution. This is the most ambitious of his prints, in terms of the size of the plate, the largest plate attempted in Northern Europe, and in composition. He convincingly portrays a crowded procession moving through a landscape, carefully defining and shading the figures using fine engraved lines. Jesus is placed at the centre of the composition, staring directly out at the viewer with a solemn, weary expression.
Schongauer's prints were distributed widely within his lifetime and figures and motifs were frequently copied by other artists. One of the means of dating this print is that a (free) copy survives in a painting in the church of St Sebald in Nuremberg, inscribed 1485. The Fitzwilliam has two Limoges enamels ( M.8-1938 & M.9-1938), dated 1520-30, with some figures that derive from Schongauer's Passion series (see images below). His engravings of the symbols of the Four Evangelists were copied for the white-line woodcut also featured on these pages.
Martin Schongauer c.1453-1491
Founder's Bequest 1816
Workshop of Nardon Penicaud 1470-1542/43
Limoges painted enamel
L.D. Cunliffe Bequest 1937