Ambrosius the Elder Francken

Netherlands 1544-1618
Crucifixion 28.0336

It is known that a triptych of the Crucifixion painted in 1607 by Ambrosius Francken stood at the main altar of the Church of the Augustinians in Mechelen, a town just south of Antwerp. It was replaced by a single painting in 1693. It is unknown whether the Figge Art Museum's Crucifixion was once part of a triptych or was painted as a single panel. A commission for this work could have also come from one of the many guilds in Antwerp, which traditionally displayed religious paintings in their guild halls. Francken has used the medieval device of continuous narrative, which depicts previous and subsequent events simultaneously, in one composition. Surrounding the crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene carries Christ's cross, soldiers gamble for Christ's robe, and Christ is entombed, all in a "Europeanized" landscape. Mary swoons in the arms of the disciple John, while Mary Magdalene, in contemporary dress, clutches the foot of the cross. The skull at the base of the cross can be found in many representations of this subject. It was used by artists to symbolize both the place (Golgotha, "the place of the skull"), Adam, Christ's redemption of mankind from the original sin of Adam, and death, which Christ would conquer with his own death and resurrection. The brothers Frans, Ambrosius, and Hieronymus Francken were well-known artists in Antwerp at the end of the 16th century. A pupil of Frans Floris, Antwerp's dominant artistic influence in the middle of the 16th century, Ambrosius Francken was known for his history and portrait painting, and was dean of Antwerp's painting guild (the Guild of St. Luke) from 1581-1582.




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