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Art that comforts
Vatican News

Vatican Museums: The Works of Mercy #4

"Proclaiming Christ means showing that believing in Him and following Him is not only true and right, but also beautiful. At the heart of the Gospel lies the beauty of God's saving love, manifested in Jesus Christ who died and rose again." Inspired by these words of Pope Francis, the Vatican Museums and Vatican News have teamed up again to explore the masterpieces in the papal collections accompanied by the words of the Popes.

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.

© Musei Vaticani
© Musei Vaticani

“Of course, it is necessary to pass through death, but now with the certainty that we will meet the Father, when “this corruptible body puts on incorruptibility, this mortal body immortality”. Then it will be clearly seen that “death is swallowed up in victory” and we will be able to face it defiantly and fearlessly: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?””

(Pope St. John Paul II, General Audience, 2 June 1999)

Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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09 March 2021, 09:00