Matthias Grunewald (alias) – Isenheim Altar

The man now known as Grunewald painted the Isenheim Altar between 1512 and 1516.  It comprises a whole series of panels which open from the original triptych so is a polytych.  Grunewald wass commissioned by the Antonine monastery which was run as a hospital for people suffering from a really horrible illness which caused Saint Anthony’s Fire (now commonly believed to be ergotism, caused by a fungus in rye flour). Often reaching epidemic proportions throughout the Middle Ages, this illness brought horrific suffering: nausea, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, sores, gangrene and inflammation of nerve endings, making those afflicted by it feel as if their bodies were on fire.  The monks commissioned the altarpiece to encourage their patients that Christ suffered as much as them and worse.  The images are extroadinary.grunewald-1515ax

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