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The crucified Christ is flanked by the good and the bad thief. On the ground below, Mary and John mourn. The skull in the foreground is a reference to Adam, who was believed to be buried at Golgotha. The painting contains many symbols of death and redemption. Among them, the owl refers to sinners who turn away from the true faith; the snake curling through the skull is symbolic of death and the devil. In this masterpiece, the Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina unites the northern technique of painting in oils and the Flemish sense of detail with the southern attention to synthesis and composition. Da Messsina, an Italian Renaissance painter, stayed in Flanders from 1457 to 1460. The painting was purchased in 1826 by professor Van Rotterdam from the Ghent Maelscamp van Balsberge family and sold by him to Florent van Ertborn.

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