The Good and the Bad Thief

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Southern Netherlands
C. 1515
Oak, Gilding, original polychromy
Marked with the hand of Antwerpen
36.5 cm
28 cm

M. Buyle & C. Vanthillo, Retables Flamands et Brabancons dans les Monuments Belges, Brussels 2000, pp. 105 - 111.

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The oak sculpture has original polychromy and gilding. It is marked with the hand of Antwerp on the head of the good thief. It was probably part of a retable and was made around 1515 in the Southern Netherlands. Besides the good and the bad thief, three Roman soldiers are depicted in armour and helmet. The good and the bad thief are both tied up with ropes, are scantily clad in rags and have bare feet.

The theme of the good and the bad thief, also known as Dismas and Gestas, is derived from a Bible story in the Gospel of Luke. Both men were murderers and, after their torture, were crucified together with Christ. After a conversation with Jesus, Dismas, the good thief, repented at the last moment on the cross, and Christ said that he would see him again in paradise. The bad thief, Gestas, did not repent.  

This sculpture shows the moment before crucifixion when the Roman soldiers lead Dismas and Gestas bound to Golgotha. Dismas looks straight at the viewer, Gestas has turned his body away.  


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