The dramatic event of a Mary and her son’s closest friends (Saint John Evangelist, Mary Magdalene and Nicodemus) preparing Christ’s body for burial is underlined by tender and striking poses and by the waves of the folds of their garments. The psychological tragedy is also visualised in the landscape. Horror vacui and rich, colourful clothing are further characteristics of Antwerp Mannerism circa 1520/1530.
About the subject of our painting
Our painting represents the Lamentation of Christ by his mother, the Virgin Mary, at the centre of the composition, supported by Saint John the Evangelist. Christ’s body is carried by Joseph of Arimathea, one of his closest followers; this wealthy man (according to the Gospel of Matthew) donated his own prepared tomb, carved into the rock, for the burial of Jesus. At right the richly dressed woman looking tenderly after Jesus’s dead body is Mary Magdalene; in front of her lies her ointment jar.
In the background at right is depicted the city of Jerusalem, at left the hill of Golgotha with the three crosses. Left of the head of Joseph of Arimathea is represented the burial of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, after they had jointly embalmed Christ’s body.
About our painting
Our painting is currently described at the RKD, The Hague, as by an “Anonymous Flemish painter from the first half of the 16th century”. At the Christie’s London sale of 10/07/02 it was “Attributed to the Master of the Von Groote Adoration”. Our painting was indeed painted by a so-called Antwerp Mannerist painter, the attribution to the Master of the Von Groote Adoration being a bit far stretched.
At the start of the 16th century Antwerp took the position of Bruges as leading harbour, business centre and therefore also cultural capital of the Low Countries and of W. Europe. The term “Antwerp Mannerism” was created in the early 20th century (1915/1920) by the eminent art expert Max Jacob Friedländer (Berlin 1867 – 1958 Amsterdam). It was a bit of an unfortunate choice, as people might link it with Mannerism in Italy or in the Low Countries, while there was no connection with none of them. Mannerism refers in fact to its artificial, exaggerated and exotically elegant character, to its twisted, elongated figures wearing marvellously draped, rich, colourful clothes.
As to Antwerp, it must for sure have been the major centre of this cultural movement, but it also emerged as far as in the Netherlands and in N. France (Amiens).
“Antwerp Mannerism” refers to the fascinating production between circa 1500/1513 and circa 1530 of retables and triptychs by often anonymous artists grouped in workshops. Stylistically they sat at the very end of Late Gothic painting and at the start of the emergence of Romanism, of Italian Renaissance influence. These artists could in the same painting borrow from “old” compositions while giving it a “modern” twist by incorporating Renaissance elements.
The dynamic, expressive movements of our protagonists are typical of Antwerp Mannerism. That same rhythmic structure continues within the folds of their very diverse clothes, and even in the rocks of Mount Golgotha at left. Together with the equally fantasized panoramic, Patinir-like landscape at right it gives a cosmic meaning to our religious composition, underling the dramatic event.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an excellent example of that short span in Flemish painting, called Antwerp Mannerism, at the very end of the Middle Ages and of Late Gothic Art.