Matthias Grünewald

Grünewald conceived this boldly rendered and expressively foreshortened figure as a witness to one of the key New Testament miracles—the Transfiguration. In this biblical event, Christ is enveloped in a halo of light as his divine nature is revealed to a small group of apostles. Here, one of the apostles is depicted as having tumbled to the ground, his body contorted and his arms extended forward, as though to protect himself from the blinding apparition. Grünewald used this study to explore the direction and modulation of light, which illuminates the apostle’s back, creating a stark contrast with the rest of the heavily shaded drapery.

Matthias Grünewald
German, ca. 1480–1528
Study for an Apostle (James or John) in the Frankfurt Transfiguration, ca. 1510–11
Charcoal, fixed, partially heightened with white
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, INV. NO. C 1910-42
© Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Photo: Herbert Boswank