Martin Schongauer, Christ bearing the Cross, a copperplate engraving

AD 1480-85

Christ carrying the Cross to Golgotha

This ambitious composition was Schongauer's largest and most complex engraving. Some 50 figures join the procession from Jerusalem in the distant right to Golgotha on the upper left. Schongauer includes the high priests on horseback, a mounted knight (centurion) ahead of Christ, beside him St Veronica mocked by a bystander, and on the far left the two stripped thieves who trudge up the hill. Christ has stumbled, so two soldiers drag him forwards while a third beats him with a rope. In the middle distance, framed by the dark rock and the spear, four women with St John faint with grief.

Schongauer applied a painter's understanding of light and shadow to help us read a composition so crowded with incident. The stark shape of the cross, delicately patterned with grain, stands out against the dark rock. The lightly engraved landscape on the right throws the darker priests into relief. The long, parallel lines in the sky close the design from above and illustrate the text, 'And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land' (Mark 15:33).

The variety of acutely observed human types drawn by Schongauer seems endless.

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More information


D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)

A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)


Height: 286.000 mm
Width: 430.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-252



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