Friday, September 4, 2009

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Title: The Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Artist: Andrea Mantegna

Medium: Tempera on canvas

Size: 68 x 81 cm

Date: c. 1490

Location: Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

The dating of this painting is debated, there are several assumptions ranging from the end of the Paduan period of the artist (c. 1457) to 1501. This painting may have been intended for the artist’s own funeral, and, in fact, it was shown at the head of his catafalque when he died. The most remarkable aspect of the painting is the perspective construction whereby the image of Christ appears to "follow" the spectator around the room through the use of an illusionistic technique.

The simple window-like framing of the confined space in this painting architecturally defines it as the cold and dismal cell of a morgue. Looking in we see an almost monstrous spectacle: a heavy corpse, seemingly swollen by the exaggerated foreshortening. The faces are seamed by wrinkles, which harmonize with the watery satin of the pinkish pillow, the pale granulations of the marble slab and the veined onyx of the ointment jar. The damp folds of the shroud emphasize the folds in the tight skin, which is like torn parchment around the dry wounds. Mantegna's creative power lies in his own interpretation of the historic, his feeling for spectacle on a small as well as a large scale. He has a tragic sense of the history and destiny of man, and of the problems of good and evil, life and death.

Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 – September 13, 1506) was a Venetian Renaissance artist, and a student of Roman archeology. Mantegna experimented with perspective in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. One of the key artistic figures of the second half of the 15th century, Mantegna was the dominant influence on north Italian painting for 50 years. It was also through him that German artists, notably Albrecht Dürer, were made aware of the artistic discoveries of the Italian Renaissance.

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