Christ in the Underworld, Emil Nolde
Emil Nolde
Christ in the Underworld
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Emil Nolde

Christ in the Underworld, 1911

86.0 x 100.5 cm
Inventory Number
Acquired in 1972 as a gift from Ilse Delfs; formerly Carl Hagemann Collection
On display, 1st upper level, Modern Art, room 12


About the Work

The picture is dominated by yellow and green. Nolde shows Christ surrounded by a Protestant priest, a monk, threatening devilish figures and a few elect. In the year of its creation, the artist was expelled from the Berlin Secession and suffered through other crises. Just as Christ had resisted hostility, Nolde also wanted to stand up to his opponents. The painting belongs to what he called his “biblical and legend paintings”. In the depictions created from 1909 onwards, he transferred traditional themes from the Old and New Testaments into decidedly subjective compositions, simplified forms and a garish colourfulness. This way, Nolde made the transition from his Impressionist-influenced early work to the colourful and expressive style of painting for which he is appreciated today.

About the Acquisition

From 1900 onwards, the Frankfurt chemist and industrialist Carl Hagemann (1867‒1940) assembled one of the most important private collections of modern art. It included numerous paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints, especially by members of the artist group “Die Brücke”. After Carl Hagemann died in an accident during the Second World War, the then Städel director Ernst Holzinger arranged for Hagemann’s heirs to evacuate his collection with the museum’s collection. In gratitude, the family donated almost all of the works on paper to the Städel Museum in 1948. Further donations and permanent loans as well as purchases of paintings and watercolours from the Hagemann estate helped to compensate for the losses the museum had suffered in 1937 as part of the Nazi’s “Degenerate Art” campaign. Today, the Hagemann Collection forms the core of the Städel museum’s Expressionist collection.


  • Basic information
  • Focus on religion

Work Data

Basic Information

Christ in the Underworld
Period Produced
Object Type
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert oben links: Emil Nolde
Work Catalogues
  • Urban 1987, Bd. 1, Nr. 424

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
© Nolde Stiftung Seebüll
Acquired in 1972 as a gift from Ilse Delfs; formerly Carl Hagemann Collection

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions
Illustrated Passage
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, 1. Petrusbrief 3,19
  • Bibel, Neues Testament, Epheserbrief 4,9



Research and Discussion


Object History
Galerie Ludwig Schames (Manfred Schames), Frankfurt
verkauft an Carl Hagemann (1867-1940), Frankfurt, 1920
Nachlass Carl Hagemann, 1940
Depositum im Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 1941
Schenkung Ilse Delfs an das Städelsche Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, 1972.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

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Conservation and Restoration

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