While most fifteenth-century Netherlandish drawings are limited to the representation of individual figures, this remarkable work presents a depiction of Christ carrying the cross on the way to Golgotha with many figures in it (Matthew 27:31b–32; Mark 15:20b–21; Luke 23:26–32; John 19:16b–17). The procession of figures behind Christ seems to be interrupted, because the group of mourners to whom the kneeling Veronica presents the image of Christ on her veil was not executed in pen.
The compositional scheme of the curving path lined by onlookers is based on a lost prototype by Van Eyck dating from around 1420–25, which is preserved in numerous copies (f. e. Netherlandish painter after Jan van Eyck, Christ Carrying the Cross, ca. 1530. Budapest, Szépművészeti Múzeum). Stylistic considerations and corresponding motifs in works by Dirk Bouts suggest that this drawing, which was once wrongly attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Elder, was made in his Louvain workshop: figural types and costume details are closely related to Bouts’s Brussels Crucifixion (ca. 1450–60; Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, inv. no. 8181). The advancing henchman at the foot of the cross in addition to the figure of Christ can also be found in a Carrying the Cross from the workshop of Bouts’s son and successor Albert (ca. 1505; Cistercian Abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau) as well as in the Boutsian Taking of Christ (ca. 1450–60; Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv. no. 990). The Crucifixion is thus a rare example of previously little-known drawings from the Bouts circle characterized by a fine and richly nuanced draftsmanship with felt-like interwoven hatchings and interspersed dots. (Eva Michel, 2013)