Compianto sul Cristo morto (1495)

Perugino (c.1446-1523)

Compianto sul Cristo morto (Lamentation over the Dead Christ)
Oil on wood, 220 x 195 cm
Galleria PalatinaPalazzo PittiFirenze


The body of Christ taken down from the cross is lying over a white shroud, supported by Nicodemus on the left and Joseph of Arimathea, who wears an unusual fabric hat decorated with flowers. The Virgin Mary, wearing a veil over her head and a wimple which covers her neck in the style of monastic dress, looks at her dead son along with the Three Marys and Mary Magdalen, who stands behind them dressed in red. The identities of the other characters are less certain, although the young apostle with the red cloak on the right can be identified as John the Evangelist. Although posed in different ways, each figure is party to the sorrow of the event, including the worshiper who would pause to pray before the image to enter a state of meditation. The inclusion of various refined fashion details in the clothes and hairstyles would not only have met with the customer’s approval but also helped to engage the viewer’s attention. The melancholy of the composition is accentuated by the evening light and the emotive landscape of rolling hills.

Originating from the church of the Convent of Santa Chiara in Florence, Perugino created the work in Florence at the peak of his career. The timeless beauty of the figures and the perfection that emanates from his compositions earned him the epithet of the “Divine Painter”, a name awarded to him by Giovanni Santi, the father of his student Raphael. (GP)