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Lamentation
Gerard David
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Christ’s body has just been brought down from the Cross and is being prepared for burial – the square door to his tomb is visible in the rock face on the right. His mother embraces him tenderly, while Mary Magdalene anoints his feet. Another woman washes his wounds with water from a brass basin while Saint John the Evangelist, in red, supports the body on its shroud.

The men entering through a gate on the right are the two secret converts to Christianity: Nicodemus, who brought spices to embalm Christ’s body, and Joseph of Arimathea, who gained permission to bury him after the Crucifixion.

It is likely that this painting formed part of a series of the life of Christ painted by David as part of polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece). His Adoration of the Kings, also in the National Gallery’s collection, probably comes from the same altarpiece.

Key facts
Artist Gerard David
Artist dates active 1484; died 1523
Full title Lamentation
Series Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made 1515-23
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 63 x 62.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Joseph H. Green, 1880
Inventory number NG1078
Location in Gallery Room 5
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These two paintings – the Adoration of the Magi and the Lamentation – most likely come from a polyptych (an altarpiece made up of several panels) painted by Gerard David and his assistants in the workshop he set up in Antwerp in 1515. They are roughly the same size and the figures are painted on the same scale, and have been together since at least the nineteenth century. They may have come from a lost altarpiece showing scenes from the life of Christ.

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