What’s going on here?
This is a 1914 German postcard from the collection of Jim Linderman. The caption reads Kreuz im Schwarzwald (“Cross in the Black Forest”), and the bottom line identifies G. Röbcke of Freiburg im Breisgau as the publisher.
I’m not sure whether this is/was an actual landmark or is just a fanciful hodgepodge of handcrafted wares; it could really be either.
At first glance the picture resembles a trash heap, but on closer inspection, one can see that the objects are not random at all but rather are carriers of symbolic meaning: from what I can make out, there’s a rooster weather vane (Peter’s denial), a lantern (Jesus is the light of the world), a water pitcher (Pilate’s hand-washing), a chalice (the Last Supper), a garment (for which lots were cast), a ladder (traditionally featured in paintings of the Deposition), and instruments of the passion—a hammer (for the nails), a column (for the scourging), and at the bottom, a crown of thorns. And then, of course, there’s Longinus on horseback, and golden angels scattered about. All this under an awning that’s reminiscent of a barrel-vaulted cathedral niche.
Symbolism is a prominent feature in traditional Western crucifixion paintings, but the symbolic elements tend to be arranged more neatly, spread out evenly throughout the frame. Here they are all attached to the cross like magnets, creating imbalanced clutter.
This image is fun because it’s unconventional—a sort of upward-growing still life with devotional import. On a postcard. Interesting . . .