CARRACCI, Annibale
(b. 1560, Bologna, d. 1609, Roma)

Lamentation of Christ

1606
Oil on canvas, 92,8 x 103,2 cm
National Gallery, London

In this Lamentation, a late work executed in 1606, Carracci has achieved a degree of monumentality in his narration of an episode from the Passion of Christ that certainly bears comparison with Caravaggio's Entombment in the Vatican. As in the work of the Lombard artist, it is a profound sense of gravity that determines the character of the composition here. None of the figures, not even the woman standing in the centre, is fully upright. Stooping, she stretches her arms out towards Mary, who has fallen backwards in a swoon. The composition is structured by the portrayal of reclining, crouching, bent and stooping positions and by the unusual motif of the three figures in staggered graduation behind one another. The upper edge of the painting seems to be drawn down low so that not one of the figures is able to stand in an upright full-length position. All of this contributes towards conveying the gravity and heaviness of the dead Christ, not only physically, but also psychologically: the view of Christ's dead body does not call for an upright statuary figure as in a memorial, but seeks an equivalent to the deep sense of melancholy, as expressed in the gestures and body language of the grieving women.

Other compositional devices would also suggest that the artist intended to trigger a similar mood in the spectator. The grouping of the figures can hardly be called beautiful or harmonious. A deep rift has been torn between the two Marys with the dead Christ and the two mourners, and although the body of Christ is the common bond between the mourning women, he is also presented as an isolated figure in the eyes of the spectator. The pallor of his body stands out against the full and heavy colority of the robes and the gloomy silhouette of the tomb.