WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)
Deposition (detail)c. 1435
Oil on oak panel
Museo del Prado, Madrid
The faces on the painting look particularly lifelike, though they are in fact based on certain types that Rogier used again and again. They are all, in slightly different ways, expressing deep grief. At the same time, Rogier has lent them the noble and dignified gravity that distinguishes almost all the figures in his works. This effect is based on a schematic pattern that Rogier used even in portraits; it is not a shortcoming, but an important discovery on his part, and one that other painters found it difficult to imitate. For all the harmony of their emotions, and the many links between them in the composition and the actions depicted, the characters of the Deposition are psychologically different; each is an image of grief in itself, calling on the viewer's reactions in its own distinctive way.
The grief stricken woman (who may be Mary Salome) reflects the attitude of Mary Magdalene on the right of the panel. In keeping with her advanced age and the distribution of various elements of movement throughout the picture, however, she expresses her emotion in a rather restrained, less extrovert way. Nonetheless, Rogier shows how her great grief has disturbed her composure: from the side of her complicated head-dress that is turned toward the viewer she has pulled the end that should hang neatly down on her shoulder over to the other side of her head, and is using the end of it to wipe away her tears.