CHARONTON, Enguerrand
(b. ca. 1410, Laon, d. ca. 1466, Avignon)

Pietà de Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (detail)

c. 1460
Tempera on wood
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The detail shows the head of the donator.

In this composition the donor kneels apart from the central tragedy of the composition. The head is painted as a portrait from real life: the hair is greyish, the bones gaunt on the clean-shaven face, the skin stretched tight over them. His forehead is wrinkled, the nose a little broad, the line of the lips firm. The eyes, directed away from the central tragedy and looking into the far distance, make it clear that the donor himself was not a participant in the event pictured here, an event that had occurred fifteen hundred years earlier. The artist has successfully presented the portrait of a man who had not himself been present at the Crucifixion, who knew of it at one remove, only as recounted to him, and who had recreated the tragedy in his inner self.