circa 1510 - after 1550
The Road to Calvary

Oil on oak panel
Image size: 20 1⁄2 x 23 1⁄2 inches
Hand made frame

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Herri Met de Bles, also known as Henri Blès, Herri de Dinant and Herry de Patinir was a Renaissance and Mannerist landscape painter, native of Bouvignes or Dinant (both in present-day Belgium).

He contributed to a distinct style of Northern Renaissance landscape painting basically originating from Gerard David’s works and combining small history or religious scenes into compositions defined by perspective and atmospheric effects.  De Bles did not aim to create a realistic depiction but an atmospheric effect, as demonstrated in this painting depicting Christ’s journey to his crucifixion.

Christ’s path to Calvary was a stage of the Passion emphasized by Northern artists, who showed him suffering at the hands of tormenters accompanying him to the site of the Crucifixion. Herri Met de Bles instead shows the moment when Simon the Cyrene temporarily alleviates his suffering by helping him carry the cross, demonstrating the redemptive value of following and imitating Christ. Locating this scene within a vast landscape replete with eye-catching details requires the viewer’s devoted attention, a strategy the artist employs perhaps to moralise the act of looking. The compositional scheme is typical of the Antwerp “world landscape” painting tradition conceived by Joachim Patinir, and culminating in the work of Pieter Brueghel. The first European landscapes since antiquity, they encompassed a staggeringly diverse description of the earth’s topography and often included a variety of cityscapes as well. The impressive scope of this panorama reminds audiences of the universal implications of Christ’s sacrifice.