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Antonello da Messina
42 cm x 52.5 cm
Inventory number: 
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Category D: Outside the Low Countries
15th century Christs Crucifixions
Religious scenes

The good and the bad murderers are bound fast on two truncated trees. The bodies are very realistically portrayed. On the ground, Mary and John, Christ’s favourite apostle, are mourning. The skull represents Adam. Since the 10th Century, it was always believed that he was buried on Golgotha. The fall of Sin is annulled by the offering of Christ. The origin of both the heredity of sin as well as the triumph of it are united on Golgotha.
The work contains many symbols dealing with death and liberation. Thus the owl represents the Jews and the sinners who have turned away from the true faith. The bird of night turns away from the light of day. The snakes that slither through the skull stand for death and the devil. Behind the cross a new twig springs forth from an old trunk. This depicts the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The work is painted in oil-painting technique that shows that the Sicilian painter was influenced by the Flemish Primitives.