This scene is not described in the Bible, but formed part of medieval devotional literature. Christ looks out at the viewer, inviting the meditation on his suffering which such literature usually invited.

The picture appears to have formed the central part of a small altarpiece with shutters which survive in Antwerp. These include the figures of the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist. The distant figures on the left wear headdresses reminiscent of early 15th-century fashion and appear to have been copied from a Van Eyck 'Crucifixion' (now New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) of that period. The background on the right is badly damaged.

This is an early work by David, perhaps before he became established in Bruges.


  • Title: Christ Nailed to the Cross
  • Creator: Gerard David
  • Date Created: about 1481
  • Physical Dimensions: 48.4 x 93.9 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on oak
  • School: Netherlandish
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG3067
  • Artist Dates: active 1484; died 1523
  • Artist Biography: Gerard David was the last great 15th-century painter from Bruges working within the tradition of realism founded by van Eyck. A subtle colourist, he succeeds in creating atmosphere through his evocative landscapes. David's work suffered critical neglect for a long time, but is now highly regarded for its technical skill and gentle mysticism. He is thought to have come from Oudewater where he was probably trained by his artist father. The influence of Rogier van der Weyden is discernible in his work. He entered the painters' guild in Bruges in 1484 and was mainly active there, becoming the leading painter after the death of Memling ten years later. He shared with the other artists from Bruges a concern for precise characterisation and the depiction of the minute details of objects. This makes his pictures rewarding to examine closely.
  • Acquisition Credit: Layard Bequest, 1916

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