The Three Marys mourn Christ after his crucifixion. The Virgin Mary kneels at Christ’s feet, her outstretched arms framed by her dark mantle. Christ’s crown of thorns lies on the ground, and beside it are the dice thrown by the soldiers who gambled for his clothes. Mary Magdalene kneels by Christ’s head, her arms raised. Mary Cleophas stands behind her clutching her head and tearing her hair with grief. The demonstrative gestures, distorted anatomy and colour contrasts are typical of Dosso’s early work.
In the distance, three crosses stand on the summit of Calvary against the sky. The cross on the left seems to have been Christ’s as the bodies of the two thieves still hang on the other crosses. The way that the figures on the hill behind the Virgin are merely suggested is a remarkable example of Dosso’s dramatic handling of paint, and adds to the expressiveness of the grieving figures.
The Three Marys mourn Christ following his crucifixion. The Virgin Mary kneels at Christ’s feet, her outstretched arms framed by her dark mantle. A halo of golden rays of light emanates from her covered head. It is unusual for the Virgin to be shown at Christ’s feet; normally his body is laid across her lap. Christ’s head is haloed by similar rays, although he also has four sets of red rays among them, which show that he is one of the Trinity.
Mary Magdalene kneels by Christ’s head, her arms raised as though gesturing to someone outside the picture, perhaps another mourner. Mary Cleophas stands behind her clutching her head and tearing her hair with grief. All the woman have powerful expressive limbs and intense, anguished expressions. The demonstrative gestures, distorted anatomy and colour contrasts are typical of Dosso’s early work, but here they are taken to extraordinary heights.
Christ’s feet remain crossed, as they were when nailed to the Cross. A wound from a nail can also be seen in his hand. His chest is arched and his head collapsed, as though his body has stiffened in death; its grey colour contrasts with the pink flesh tones of the other, living, figures. His back seems to be resting on the large pink cushion behind his head, although the size of the cushion is unclear as it is the same colour as Mary Magdalene’s skirt.
Calvary, the hill where Christ was crucified, can be seen on the left in the distance. Three crosses stand on its summit against the sky. The one on the left seems to have been occupied by Christ as it looks as though it bears the traditional scroll inscribed ‘I.N.R.I.’, meaning ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. It is unusual for Christ’s cross not to be in the middle. The bodies of the two thieves still hang on the other crosses. The background of the picture is painted very freely, which is especially noticeable in the rocket-like brushstrokes intended to represent crowds of figures at the base of the hill – a remarkable example of Dosso’s dramatic handling of paint.
The crown of thorns, with which Christ was humiliated during the Passion, lies on the ground beside him; beside it are the dice thrown by the soldiers who gambled for his clothes. It is very uncommon for the dice to be included in a painting of the Lamentation.
Although the distortions of expressions, forms and space in the picture are particularly strange, they and the manner in which it is painted are highly characteristic of Dosso – especially the jagged white lights on the crisp papery folds of Christ’s loin cloth, the flickering yellow and pink brushstrokes of its border ornament and of the tassels of the cushion under Christ’s head and the alternating, almost vertical, strokes of strongly contrasting deep plum and light pink showing the pleats of Mary Magdalene’s dress.
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