Alabaster, supplemented during Baroque, original polychromy, retouched Height 28.5 cm
This painted alabaster relief of the dying Christ held by an angel and accompanied by God the Father and the dove that symbolizes the Holy Spirit is a major work of the Liebieghaus’s Medieval collection. Not only is it consummately rendered in the soft material by one of the greatest Late Gothic sculptors, and with imposing expressive power, but also—unusually—its whereabouts can be traced back to the century in which it was produced. Moreover, the manner of depiction is unique.
Inscriptions on the back indicate that the relief was probably in Schloss Sandizell near Ingolstadt from the fifteenth century until it was purchased in 1928. The line of counts who resided there may have received it as a gift from Duke Ludwig the Bearded of Bavaria-Ingolstadt, to whom they had remained faithful. Active for many years at the royal court in Paris, where he became familiar with the most recent trends in art, in 1430 Ludwig commissioned Hans Multscher of Ulm—one of the most renowned as well as one of the most moder German sculptors—to design his tomb monument in a threedimensional sketch. It is quite conceivable that the commission for the Sandizell relief, executed at the same time, came about in like manner.
The duke’s passion for the unusual could explain the uniqueness of the relief ’s rendering: although the motif is based on common pictorial types, the specific combination of Christ’s corpse, the angel, God the Father and the dove is unique. This does not, however, alter how it would have been used: as a visual reminder of the death of Jesus, which is the culmination of the Christian story of salvation. His death guaranteed the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, making the relief and its related depictions the object of continual private devotions.