Compianto su Cristo morto con la Vergine e i santi Giuseppe d'Arimatea, Maddalena, Marta e Filippo Benizi (?)

Lamentation over the Dead Christ with the Virgin, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Filippo Benizi (?)

Giovanni Bellini e aiuti

Author
Giovanni Bellini e aiuti
Venezia, 1434/1439 - 1516
Title
Lamentation over the Dead Christ with the Virgin, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Filippo Benizi (?)
Catalogue
166
Date
ca. 1510–1516
Support
Canvas, 445 x 310 cm
Provenance
1829, purchased following the Napoleonic Suppression (from the church of Santa Maria dei Servi in Venice)
Hall
Hall II

The altarpiece, originally placed on one of the first altars on the right in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, depicts one of the most recurring themes in Bellini’s work, the lamentation over the dead Christ. This version is attributed to the master himself, but he was probably assisted by Rocco Marconi, one of his pupils. Bellini added four other figures to the group in addition to Christ and Mary, but only the two nearest the central group can be identified with any certainty as Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene. There has been much debate over the identity of the two outer figures. It has been suggested that the woman on the left is Martha, Saint Monica, or Giuliana Falconieri while the friar on the right may be either Filippo Benizi or Bonaventura Tornielli da Forlì, who was venerated by the Servite order. The scene is set in a brigthly-lit landscape brimming with natural details which can be interpreted symbolically: the three trees to the right – a fig, an olive, and an apple tree – call to mind Christ’s passion, the Virgin’s suffering, and the Resurrection as redemption for original sin. The colour scheme pervading the work and the economy and synthesis of its composition would suggest that this altarpiece belongs to the final phase of the artist’s career, somewhere between 1500 and 1510. References to this painting can be seen in the Lamentation by Sebastiano del Piombo (1516, Saint Petersburg, The Hermitage) and in Titian’s Pietà (1575–1576, Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, cat. 400), where the Virgin repeats the same gesture and two outer figures, statues in this case, are positioned to the sides of the central group.