The dead Christ is supported by Saint John the Evangelist. The Virgin laments by his side while the Magdalen leans forward to kiss his feet. This incident is not described in the Gospels, but forms part of a long pictorial tradition.
Ribera painted several Lamentations and Depositions most notably a 'Lamentation' in an upright composition of 1637 (Naples, Certosa di San Martino). However, the National Gallery work appears to be his earliest surviving painting of the subject. It is marked by the influence of Caravaggio in its directness and lack of idealisation. Ribera painted the picture in Naples and it has been suggested that it is the work he executed for the Genoese nobleman Marcantonio Doria in 1623.