Emperor Heraclius Denied Entry into Jerusalem, 1460/80

Tempera and oil on panel
67.6 x 54.2 cm (26 5/8 x 21 5/16 in.); painted surface: 67 x 53 cm (26 3/8 x 20 7/8 in.)
George F. Harding Collection, 1990.562

Emperor Heraclius Denied Entry into Jerusalem

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This panel recounts the adventures of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, who rescued the True Cross and returned it to Jerusalem after its capture by Chosroës, king of Persia. These scenes were probably part of an extended narrative on an altarpiece dedicated to the Holy Cross, a relic that was much venerated in the Middle Ages.

In this scene, the emperor brings the True Cross back to Jerusalem in triumph. However, an angel bars his way, pointing out the vanity of his procession in comparison to Christ’s humble entry into the city. Only when the emperor dismounted and approached in humility was he allowed to enter, a scene that was no doubt once part of the sequence. Here the emperor is identifiable by the double-headed eagle, which was an emblem of both the Holy Roman emperor of the day and past emperors.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report, 1990–91, p. 19.

Martha Wolff in Martha Wolff et al., Northern European and Spanish Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2008, pp. 271-76, ill.

Ownership History

T. Schiff; sold, his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Mar. 21–22, 1905, nos. 15 and 18, as sixteenth-century Augsburg School, to Kleinberger along with two other panels from the same narrative cycle now in the Kunstmuseum Basel [annotated sale catalogue in the library of the Cleveland Museum of Art]. George F. Harding, Jr. (d. 1939), Chicago, by 1929 [the paintings were lent to the Art Institute by Harding in 1929; Registrar’s records]; bequeathed to the George F. Harding Museum, Chicago; ownership transferred to the AIC, 1982; accessioned, 1990.