“Lamentation,” North Italian or Bolognese school, oil on metal, c. 1575-1650.
The body of the dead Christ is displayed almost vertically, front and center, to stimulate the viewer’s own piety and prayers for salvation. Unlike Medieval images that emphasize Christ’s emaciated, tortured body, here his body is muscular and has a classical, tragic beauty. His vertical posture recalls a related type of Lamentation, the “Man of Sorrows” image which developed during the fourteenth century and became popular as a private devotional image. This was painted in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, known as the Counter-Reformation period, when the Catholic Church encouraged artists to paint more naturalistic devotional images that would help the common people (who often could not read the Bible themselves), understand Christ’s life. Mary Magdalena’s unusual gesture of intertwining her fingers with Christ’s fingers is the kind of inventive, strikingly tactile motif that would have appealed to the common people; it follows the new guidelines for religious art written at the Council of Trent in 1566.
Question: Was the Lamentation a popular subject in Catholic Church art?