DYCK, Sir Anthony van
(b. 1599, Antwerpen, d. 1641, London)
Lamentation over the Dead Christ1634-40
Oil on canvas, 147 x 267 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao
In this painting Van Dyck represents one of the most moving sequences in The Passion of Christ. He achieves a dramatic effect by shedding light on the face of the Virgin Mary and leaving that of Jesus in semi-darkness, although the latter's nude body, skillfully rendered and barely covered by the white shroud, seems to be the source of light. This canvas was painted during the last stage of the artist's life in London, working for Charles I, and is perfectly in keeping with the idealised aesthetic guidelines laid down by the king, which included the elegance of figures, a compositional balance and a gentle colour range.
In this case the painter, who produced several versions of this theme, resorts to a landscape composition in which the figures form two groups connected by the child angel who is crying inconsolably: on the one hand, Magdalene, Jesus Christ and Mary, and on the other, two adult angels. The end figures lean towards the centre, thereby closing the composition.