Hans Holbein the Elder: The Grey Passion in its Time

Great State Exhibition Baden-Württemberg 2010
27 November 2010 – 20 March 2011

In this special exhibition, the Staatsgalerie dedicates itself to one of the central themes of Christian art: the Passion of Christ. Hans Holbein the Elder produced his Grey Passion, comprising twelve panels, between 1494 and 1500. The Staatsgalerie was able to acquire this major work by the artist in 2003 thanks to a large-scale fundraising campaign. The twelve panels were thoroughly examined and restored in the run-up to the major state exhibition.

Visitors can expect an encounter of superlatives: the exhibition shows Holbein's Passion sequence in the context of panel paintings and graphic series on the same theme by important predecessors and contemporaries such as dirk bouts, the master of Frankfurt, Martin Schongauer, the Master AG, Israhel van Meckenem and others. The emotional density and compositional unity in which Holbein interpreted the story of Christ's Passion becomes particularly clear. With his formally calmed compositions and his idealised type of Christ, the artist already points ahead to a Renaissance ideal of representation. Trusting solely in his own artistic possibilities, Holbein broke away from the traditional pictorial forms and avoided the sometimes drastic depictions of the Passion by his predecessors.

Particular attention is paid to the colour design already alluded to in the name of the "Grey Passion", which is unparalleled within the whole of European altarpiece painting. At the same time, it is to be seen in the context of the art of the 14th - 16th centuries, which alienated the multicoloured world of appearance by deliberately avoiding colour. The decisive models for Hans Holbein the Elder in the field of grisaille painting, such as Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling and their circle or successors, as well as his German contemporaries experimenting with monochrome colour design, including Matthias Grünewald and Hans Baldung Grien, are to be shown in an exemplary selection in order to highlight Holbein's own objective at the same time.