Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece is probably my all time favorite painting of our Lord’s death. The gnarled hands and twisted legs and ribs as well as Mary being deathly pale. Incredible piece.
I understand that the Isenheim monastery (in which this piece was located) housed a hospital for those suffering from skin and blood diseases as well as epilepsy. The French Catholic novelist J.K. Huysmans remarked:
“That awful Christ who hung dying over the altar of the Isenheim hospital would seem to have been made in the image of the ergotics who prayed to him; they must surely have found consolation in the thought that this God they invoked had suffered the same torments as themselves, and had become flesh in a form as repulsive as their own; and they must have felt less forsaken, less contemptible. It is easy to see why Grünewald’s name, unlike the names of Holbein, Cranach and Dürer, is not to be found in the account-books or the records of commissions left by emperors and princes. His pestiferous Christ would have offended the taste of the courts; he could only be understood by the sick, the unhappy and the monks, by the suffering members of Christ.”