Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 – September 13, 1506)
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ c. 1480
Tempera on canvas
68 × 81 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
The theme of the Lamentation is traditional, although it is not described in the Bible. It shows Mary, and others, weeping over his body after the Crucifixion.
The realism and tragedy of the scene are enhanced by the violent perspective, which shortens and dramatizes the recumbent figure, stressing the anatomical details: in particular, Christ's thorax.
It shows Jesus's body as mortal, tortured flesh. It brings the witness up close.
It is also a a deeply human and emotional painting, loaded with pathos. There is a sorrow in the painting that results from an acknowledgement of great loss: there is the death of a human, which is tragic; there is the loss of a possible saviour, which is catastrophic; and there is the possibility that there is no saviour at all, which is hopeless and devastating.