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“Lamentation of Christ” by Andrea Mantegna

The dead Christ and three mourners by Andrea Mantegna

“Lamentation of Christ” by Andrea Mantegna

“Lamentation of Christ” by Andrea Mantegna portrays the body of Christ lying face upwards on a marble slab. He is mourned by the Virgin Mary and Saint John and St. Mary Magdalene weeping for his death. The theme of the Lamentation of Christ is common in medieval and Renaissance art, although this treatment is unusual for the period. The realism and tragedy of the scene are enhanced by the perspective, which foreshortens and dramatises the stretched out figure.

Mantegna stressed the anatomical details, in particular, Christ’s thorax, the holes in Christ’s hands and feet. Also, the faces of the mourners, are portrayed without any idealism. The sharply drawn drapery which covers the corpse contributes to the dramatic effect. The composition places the central focus of the image on the human anatomy of the figure, which supported a theological emphasis on the Humanity of Jesus at the time.

Mantegna presents both a distressing study of a powerfully foreshortened cadaver and an intensely poignant depiction of a biblical tragedy. This painting is one of many examples of Mantegna’s mastery of perspective. At first glance, the picture seems to display an accurate viewpoint. However, closer inspection shows that Mantegna reduced the size of the figure’s feet. Otherwise, the feet would have covered more of the body if adequately represented.

Andrea Mantegna

Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) was an Italian painter and a student of Roman archaeology. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, by lowering the horizon to create a sense of greater monumentality. His landscapes and stony figures give evidence of a sculptural approach to painting.

Mantegna’s primary legacy is considered the introduction of spatial illusionism, both in frescoes and in paintings. Mantegna made this painting for his funerary chapel. It was found by his sons in his studio after his death and sold off to pay debts.


  • Does this depiction do justice to the Humanity of Jesus?

Lamentation over the Dead Christ

  • Title:              Lamentation of Christ
  • Variants:        Lamentation over the Dead Christ, or the Dead Christ
  • Artist:            Andrea Mantegna
  • Created:        1470 – 1474
  • Medium:       Tempera on canvas
  • Dimensions:  68 × 81 cm
  • Museum:      Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera

Andrea Mantegna

  • Name:          Andrea Mantegna
  • Born:            1431, Isola di Carturo, Venetian Republic, now Italy
  • Died:            1506 (aged 74–75), Mantua, now Italy
  • Nationality:   Italian
  • Movement:  Italian Renaissance
  • Notable Works

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
– Leonardo da Vinci


Photo Credit 1) Andrea Mantegna [Public domain]