Artist unknown (Northern European, 16th century),
Mass of Saint Gregory
oil on panel, 27 x 20 ½ in.; 68.9 x 52.1 cm
Gift of Mr. Himan Brown, 1961.570
The apparition of Christ to Pope Gregory I (560–604) as he celebrated Mass was a popular subject in northern Europe in the late fifteenth century. According to the legend, Christ appeared above the altar as the Man of Sorrows (displaying the wounds of the Crucifixion). He promised that an image showing Him in this form would grant indulgences to those who venerated it.
Compared with the lifelike naturalism of contemporary Italian paintings, this work looks flat and old-fashioned. However, such medieval characteristics as distorted perspective, inconsistent figure scale, and emphasis on anecdotal detail remained common in northern European painting of this time.