Descent from the cross

   Pontius Pilate granted permission to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to remove Christ's body from the cross for burial. The Descent from the Cross shows the moment when this task is carried out by the two men. One of the most remarkable examples of this theme is Rogier van der Weyden's altarpiece of c. 1438 in the Madrid Prado. It shows the Virgin Mary swooning at the foot of the cross, her body echoing that of Christ to denote that his suffering is also hers. The anguish of the others present is clearly denoted in their facial expressions and postures, and particularly their eyes, red and swollen from crying. Gerard David's version of c. 1510-1515 at the New York Frick Collection is no less dramatic. Here, the Virgin takes Christ's limp hand and presses it against her face, while Mary Magdalen wipes her tears with the back of her right hand. Jacopo da Pontormo's rendition for the Church of Santa Felicita, Florence (1525-1528), is a Mannerist version of the event. The figures are still in extreme anguish, yet the cross was omitted from the scene. The circular composition with a void in the center, the harsh combination of colors and lighting, and contorted poses of the figures add to the turbulence of the event, and place this work among the great examples of Mannerist art. Rembrandt painted his Descent from the Cross in c. 1633 (St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum) with the theatrical lighting effects and emotive components that characterize the Baroque style.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

Look at other dictionaries:

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