Lamentation of Christ (Mantegna)  

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Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1480) by Andrea Mantegna
Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1480) by Andrea Mantegna

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dead Christ, Crucifixion of Jesus

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ is a painting of c. 1480 of the Lamentation of Christ by the Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. The actual painting of the piece is debated, but it is believed to have been completed between 1457 and 1501.

The painting portrays the dead Christ supine on a marble slab. He is flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John, who are weeping for his death.

The subject is a theme common to medieval and Renaissance art, although the treatment, going back to a subject known as the Anointing of Christ is unusual for this period. Most Lamentations show much more contact of the mourners with the body. There are rich contrasts of light and shadow, and a profound sense of pathos. The realism and tragedy of the scene are enhanced by the violent perspective, which foreshortens and dramatizes the recumbent figure, stressing the anatomical details: in particular, Christ's thorax. The holes in Christ's hands and feet, as well as the faces of the two mourners, are portrayed without any concession to idealism or rhetoric. The sharply drawn drapery which covers the corpse contributes to the dramatic effect. Unique to this painting is a design that places the central focus of the image on Christ's genitals - an artistic choice that is open to a multitude of interpretations. Mantegna managed instead to paint a very specific representation of physical and emotional trauma.

Mantegna presented both a harrowing study of a strongly foreshortened cadaver and an intensely poignant depiction of a biblical tradgedy. This painting is one of many examples of the artist's mastery of perspective. At first glance, the painting seems to be a strinkingly relistic study in foreshortening . However, careful scrutiny reveals that Mantegna reduced the size of the figure's feet, which, as he must have known, would cover much of the body if properly represented.

Mantegna probably made this painting for his personal funerary chapel. It was found by his sons in his studio after his death and sold to pay debts. The painting is in the Pinacoteca di Brera of Milan, Italy.

The Lamentation in popular culture

A visual reference to this painting is made in the 2003 film The Return by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ and the easel on which it was painted form the basis of a literary work in the genre of ecphrasis by Kelly Grovier entitled "The Easel of Mantegna". [1]


  • La Grande Storia dell'Arte - Il Quattrocento, Sole 24 Ore, 2005 (Link to at 1)
  • Faces of Christ, Thomas, D., 1979
  • Andrea Mantegna and the Italian Renaissance, Joseph Manca, 2006
  • Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 13th Edition, Frank S. Kleiner, 2008

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lamentation of Christ (Mantegna)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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