Giovanni Bellini, 1427-1516, Lamentation over the dead Christ with Saints Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Mary Magdalene, altarpiece cymatium, ca. 1475, oil on poplar, Vatican Art Gallery © Musei Vaticani
The moving and harmonious Pietà of Giovanni Bellini, painted between the years 1473 and 1475, exudes a cathartic and supreme acceptance of God’s will in the sacrifice of Christ. The protagonists—overcome with pain—lament in silence. Our Lady is missing from the painting. Only Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Mary Magdalene are depicted. The Magdalene’s face is lined from crying, as she anoints the nail wounds on Christ’s hand. In the Flemish art tradition, Bellini paints the tears according to the theory of imitation lacrimarium, to inspire compassion and participation on the part of the observer. Tears therefore become a favored means to promote the path of spiritual perfection in the devotee.
(Pope St. John Paul II, General Audience, 2 June 1999)
Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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