The composition of this work appears to be unique and to have originated with van Cleve. Examination of this painting under infrared-reflectography reveals a wonderfully loose, freehand drawing throughout, especially in many of the foreground figures. Klaus Ertz (see Literature), who had known this painting from when it was in the collection of Trude Fischer in Lucerne, believes it to be fully by van Cleve and, indeed, one of his most important works. He points out many motifs - the dog in the foreground, the piebald horse, the hen in the basket, the young boy with the eggs – that can be found in other works by the artist. Also fully characteristic are van Cleve’s preference for powerful forms, particularly the stocky body types of the figures and their rough, quirky faces, as well as their sense of movement with outstretched arms. Here the artist depicts a chaotic scene with figures crowded into the foreground against a bleak landscape leading up to Golgotha. Amidst the profusion of figures, it is almost difficult to pick out Christ carrying the Cross at middle left and the figure of a woman, presumably Veronica, holding out her veil. Though a religious subject, Van Cleve has filled the scene with prosaic details such as peasants with their produce, mothers with infants and young children, and a dog in the foreground nosing a frog, that add a strong narrative quality to the work.
The catalogue of the sale in Lucerne in 1998 (see Provenance), lists a certificate from Klaus Ertz dated Lingen, 27 April 1995; he dates the picture to the 1560s or 1570s.
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