Rubens’s "Lamentation" appeals to viewers because of the proximity of the action. They are brought face to face almost frontally with the ashen body of Christ who lies outstretched on a stone pedestal. Joseph of Arimathea, who had asked Pilate for the corpse of Christ, supports his torso as it falls back. The pale-faced Madonna closes her son’s eyes, while St John holds her arm. Mary Magdalene mourns the dead redeemer with the group of other Marys. Rubens’s interpretation of this subject follows the tradition of medieval Bible illustration in Italy, which presents Christ lying on the anointment stone, though the body has not yet been anointed. His mother is just beginning the cleansing process by gently removing a thorn from her son’s forehead. The ears of corn protruding under the shroud are probably an allusion to the Eucharistic significance of Christ’s death.
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Peter Paul Rubens
The Lamentation, c. 1612
Oil on canvas
height 151 cm, width 204 cm
Inv.-No. GE62
Provenance: 1710 acquired by Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein from the art dealer Justus Forchoudt in Vienna
Further works on display
Decius Mus relating his dream, 1616/1617
Decius Mus preparing for Death, 1616/1617
The Death of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Dismissal of the Lictors, 1616/1617
The Interpretation of the Victim, 1616/1617
The Trophy, 1616/1617
The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1637
Venus in Front of the Mirror, 1614/1615
Oil sketch of Mars and Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
Mars und Rhea Silvia, c. 1616/1617
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius, c. 1616
Satyr and Maid with Fruit Basket, 1615
Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 1615/1622
Double Portrait of Albert and Nikolaus Rubens, c. 1626/1627
Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616
Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, c. 1616
Henry IV seizes the Opportunity to conclude Piece, 1628
The Victory of Henry IV at Coutras, 1628
The Consecration of Decius Mus, 1616/1617
The Obsequies of Decius Mus
Three Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Joachim, 1615/1620
St. Catherine in the Clouds, 1620/1621
Four Music-Making Angels, on the reverse side of St Anne, 1615/1620
Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun, 1621/1625
The Conversion of St. Paul, 1601/1602
Perseus and Andromeda
The Virgin adorned with flowers, 1609/1610
Psyche taken up into Olympus, 1621
Landscape with Milkmaids and Cows, 1616
Allegory of war, 1628
The Hunt of Meleager and Atalanta, 1628 (?)
The Assumption of the Virgin, modello, 1637
Ganymede, 1611/1612
Diana´s Hunt, 1628
St. Francis of Assisi before the Crucified Christ, 1625
Portrait of a Monk (?)
Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1610
The Visitation, 1611/1612
Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, 1615
Samson and Delilah, c. 1610
Related themes
Rubens in Wien
Samson and Delilah. A Rubens painting returns
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