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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1450-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woodcut and hand-colouring on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 88a, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case WW

This woodcut combines Man of Sorrows imagery with the Instruments of the Passion, between them representing the moments leading up to Christ’s death. The subjects reflect a growth in internal meditation and focus on Christ’s suffering.

The dead Christ is supported on the edge of his sarcophagus by a weeping Saint John and Virgin Mary, his wounds displayed. Behind him some of the Instruments of the Passion are arranged symmetrically on the Cross. Instruments of the Passion each symbolised a stage in the various tortures inflicted on Christ leading up to his Crucifixion. The Instruments shown here are the Cross and two nails, the whips (hanging on the nails), sponge, Crown of Thorns and spear.

The small format of this image reflects the private nature of this form of devotion. There is a frame around the image, but the lower frame is formed from the front edge of the sarcophagus. This adds to the immediacy of the image with the viewer’s position next to the sarcophagus as though one of the mourners. This image has had colour added. Colour was an important aspect of these devotional images, particularly the red used to show the blood in Christ’s wounds.

Physical description

Christ as Man of Sorrows with some of the Instruments of the Passion. In the foreground Christ's body is being placed into his tomb by the Virgin Mary and Saint Josep, who are weeping. His hand and flank wounds are visible. Behind are the Cross, on which hang the Crown of Thorns, sponge, spear and two whips hanging on the two nails. With hand-colouring in red, brown and green, also showing the blood on Christ's hands and in his chest.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


ca. 1450-1500 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Woodcut and hand-colouring on paper


Height: 15.7 cm, Width: 14.1 cm

Descriptive line

Hand-coloured woodcut showing Christ as Man of Sorrows and the Instruments of the Passion; Italy, ca. 1450-1500.

Labels and date

The oldest surviving European woodcuts are religious images. The advent of print allowed identical copies of pictures of saints to be made quickly and these were probably intended to be hand-coloured. Colour was important in devotional images, particularly red, used to show Christ's wounds. This subtly cut print is rather crudely coloured, but this has the effect of bringing the uncoloured figure of Christ into focus. [August 2019]

Subjects depicted

Man of Sorrows; Instruments of the Passion


Prints; Religion; Christianity


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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