Undisputed masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, the Lamentation over the Dead Christ was made by the Modena-based artist Guido Mazzoni in 1492. Highly skilled in terracotta craftsmanship, Mazzoni is known for the extreme realistic effect with which he reproduced each figure and its details.
His rendering of facial expressions is extremely suggestive, catching the grief the characters were experiencing and showing it through cries of pain, fainting spells and furrowed brows, in an attempt to restrain themselves from weeping. The rendering of the exquisite fabrics, of the delicate embroideries or of the rich fur coats shows great mastery.
The sculptural group is made up of eight life-sized terracotta statues, with Christ as the focus of the scene, laid down from the cross. Around him, starting from the left, the seven characters are arranged in a semi-circle: Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome that holds a fainting Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, Mary of Clopas and Nicodemus. The statue’s plasticity enhances the energy in each gesture: every character is defined by a specific position and a personal expression of grief and pain. The artist completes his statues meticulously, going as far as detailing even the parts that remains hidden to the viewer. For instance, Mary Magdalene has been artfully portrayed with her mouth open, which gives us a glimpse of her teeth and tongue, according to a ‘’veristic’’ fashion that goes far beyond the mere details visible to the observer’s eyes. While contemplating this marvellous masterpiece, the spectator is invited into a scene of collective drama, which is both all-encompassing and universal, and he can’t help but participate in the suffering of the characters gathered around Christ, perpetually reliving his sacrifice.
Another valuable element to note is the representation of the Aragonese rulers, recognizable in the features of two characters: Joseph of Arimathea bears a resemblance to King Alfonso II, the nobleman who commissioned the piece, while Nicodemus’s face is based off of Ferrante, Alfonso’s father.