The Lamentation

Artist: circle of Jan de Beer (Netherlandish, Antwerp ca. 1475–1528 Antwerp)

Date: ca. 1505

Medium: Pen and black ink, over black chalk

Dimensions: 6 x 9 in. (15.3 x 22.9 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Pat and John Rosenwald Gift and 2000 Benefit Fund, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.189


This exceptionally fine work exemplifies the early sixteenth-century Antwerp Mannerist drawing style. Possibly by Jan de Beer, one of the greatest practitioners of this school, the drawing depicts the Lamentation, with Christ's body laid out on a linen cloth in the foreground and figures around him expressing various stages of mourning and despair. The Virgin Mary kneels above her son's body in the center of the composition, Saint John the Evangelist stands directly behind her, and Mary Magdalene, with a vase of ointment, kneels at Christ's feet. Characteristic of Antwerp Mannerism are the dramatic gestures and postures, the fluttering draperies, the exotic costumes, and the heightened emotional atmosphere of the scene. Adding to the vibrancy of the composition are the drawing technique–the short, energetic strokes in the hatching, in particular–and the tightly packed arrangement of figures. Both of these traits are found in the works of Jan de Beer, whose painted version of the Lamentation (Turin, Galleria Sabauda) also has a richly expressionistic character. This sheet may have been intended as a study for an unknown or never completed painting of the subject.