Spiritual drama within the motif is emphasized with spot lighting and intense wringing of hands, yet facial expression of Jesus remains gentle and composed. Landscape features have been reduced to a few stones and a thorn bush that prefigures a crown of thorns. The choice of subject matter reflects Hofmann’s own isolation and reliance upon faith; his wife was very ill and has passed away only months after the painting was completed.
Dramatic moment is given additional depth as embroidery threads create a focus of light and the background is smoothly embroidered, while the hand-crafted details of the Jesus’s face and hands give the illusion of both anguish and peace.
About the artist
An artist’s work can be immensely popular and familiar, yet the artist remains almost unknown. This is definitely true for Heinrich Hofmann (1824 – 1911). He was one of the most celebrated painters of his time but now he is rather overlooked. His style of painting was unique and influential in its own way, and at the same time based on the traditional art of old Dutch, Italian and German masters of the Renaissance. Religious paintings are among Hofmann’s most celebrated motifs but he has also created numerous portraits and images that depict mythological and historical topics. Four of his most famous liturgical works are in the possession of the Riverside Church in New York.
Innovation of layering
We layer multiple colours of threads and so create rich embroidery and colour texture that is impossible to create with classic one-layer embroidery technique. By layering, we develop colour transitions and shadowing, by which we create multiple-colour surfaces, similar to pointillism painting.
Smooth transitions and shading
By intertwining threads of endless colours and creating colour transitions, we can shape soft shadows, make one surface transition into another and mix colours into an endless multitude of hues. This way, we can also recreate motives from photographs and sophisticated art paintings which wouldn’t be possible with classic embroidery technique, using vector surfaces.
Sophisticated colour calibration
Usually in embroidery, 10 or 20, maybe 30 colours of threads are used. We use around 1,000 colour hues and if a colour still doesn’t match the desired one, we create it by layering and colour transitions. We have digitally scanned colours of all threads by using a spectrograph, so we can colour match any colour from an original material or from CMYK, RGB or Pantone colour schemes.