(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)


Oil on oak panel
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Memling produced three versions of the Lamentation theme - two triptychs in Rotterdam and Bruges, known as the Kaufmann and the Reins triptych respectively, and this panel in Rome. There is nothing to suggest that this work ever had wings. Whereas the dimensions of the Lamentation in the Reins triptych are notably smaller, the central panel of the Kaufmann triptych is precisely the same size as the Rome Lamentation. Nevertheless, a different type was used in the latter. A donor is present and the Virgin embraces the body of Christ. Memling was reaching directly back here to a composition by Rogier van der Weyden, several variations of which also survive. The version known from copies in Madrid (Prado) and Berlin (Staatliche Museen) served as the model for the present work. The poses adopted by the Virgin and St John are virtually the same. The figure of Mary Magdalene has been inserted. The crosses of the two thieves in the background represent an almost literal correspondence with another work copied from Van der Weyden, namely an early-sixteenth-century copy (Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts, destroyed by fire) after a lost Deposition. It is not possible, however, to determine whether this motif appeared in the original Deposition, or came from yet another work.

Attempts have been made to link the donor figure with that in the Bucharest wing and to identify it as the perfect likeness of Willem Moreel. The man in Bucharest certainly cannot be Willem Moreel, because his wife does not resemble Barbara van Vlaenderberch and only one son is present. If the donor in Rome is, indeed, the same as the one in Bucharest, then he must be younger in the Rome painting (no wife or child) - a point which does not conflict with his features.