Lamentation Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Albrecht Durer would feature the Lamention of Christ within a number of different artworks, with this version now to be found in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany. It is pleasing to find several of the artist's best works still located within his home town.

This piece is dated at circa 1498 and was completed using oils on panel. It is important to remember that for many years the Italian Renaissance masters would use egg tempera until the influence of North European painters persuaded them as to the merits of using oils instead. Durer was of course highly skilled within this medium but would also impress with whole series of engravings and woodcuts. We know from written records that this piece was intended for the family chapel of Karl Holzschuher in the church of Sankt Johannis in Nuremberg, meaning it holds a strong connection to the artist's home town. The scene itself is from the Bible and mentions the moment at which Christ is taken down from the cross and lies limply on the floor. He is then prepared for burial whilst mourners surround his body in deep sadness at his demise.

This version features a fairly complex arrangement, with a landscape scene dominating the background and another series of figures in the far distance to the left. In the foreground we find the main content, as Christ is being cared for whilst in the very bottom of the painting are a number of much small figures whose relevance takes a little time to uncover. In fact, it turns out that the people featured at the very bottom are actually the donors for this artwork who Durer has decided to include as thanks for their generosity. This was a common technique used by artists in the Northern Renaissance, but normally it would be a single donor, or perhaps a married couple who are featured rather than such a large number of figures as found here. It is the Holzschuher and Grüber families who are represented here, and their coat of arms are also included alongside.

The figures who kneel over the body of Christ are John the Apostle, Mary, Nicodemus and an identified woman whilst Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea are situated close behind. It is a particularly complex piece and in the early 16th century this use of landscape art was about as prominent as it could be. It was only later that specialists in this genre would start to achieve success and so for many years landscape painting was simply used as a method to support other content, which is precisely what we see here with Durer's Lamentation. Religious themes were particularly common at the time, for two main reasons. Firstly, religion was a much larger part of western society than it is today, and secondly these were the types of themes which most of the best paying patrons would prefer, meaning Durer was essentially working to his market.