John Mcewen com­ments on La­men­ta­tion over the Dead Christ with Saints

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting -

Dame Paula has al­ways based her art on sto­ry­telling and, for her, the great­est story is the life of Christ. Its tragic af­ter­math was the la­men­ta­tion, the fi­nal act af­ter his cru­ci­fix­ion, mourned on Good Fri­day be­fore the tri­umph of his res­ur­rec­tion on easter Sun­day.

In each of the Gospels, the key fig­ure is Joseph of arimethea, a rich dis­ci­ple of Je­sus, who asked the Ro­man gover­nor, Pon­tius Pi­late, for per­mis­sion to lay the body of Je­sus in the tomb that Joseph had pre­pared for his own burial. It was Joseph who wrapped him in fine linen—mary, mary mag­da­lene and other women present are seen as pas­sive on­look­ers.

Bot­ti­celli drama­tises the bi­b­li­cal ac­count, mak­ing the grief-stricken women the prin­ci­pals. mary swoons into the arms of St John. mary mag­da­lene, at her shoul­der, holds up the Three Nails. Joseph of arimethea is re­placed by as­sorted saints. The paint­ing was orig­i­nally for a Floren­tine chapel whose pa­tron saint was St Paul, hence his pres­ence (sec­ond from left), with his mar­tyred coun­ter­part St Peter (right). The pen­i­ten­tial St Jerome (far left) may have been the donor’s pa­tron saint.

The pic­ture re­flected the bor­na­gain pu­ri­tan­i­cal zeal in­spired in Bot­ti­celli by the Do­mini­can friar, Savonarola, who cas­ti­gated the sec­u­lar Floren­tines, es­pe­cially the artist’s pa­trons, the medici bankers. Vasari’s claim that Bot­ti­celli was a fol­lower or pi­agnone (sniv­eller), who later re­lin­quished art and died im­pov­er­ished, is not sup­ported by ex­tant facts.

La­men­ta­tion over the Dead Christ with Saints, 1490Ð92, by San­dro Bot­ti­celli (1445Ð1510), 55in by 81in, Alte Pi­nakothek, Mu­nich, Ger­many

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