Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) is widely considered to be one of Giotto's true masterpieces, despite being just one section of a much larger project.
There is a larger image of the original painting at the bottom of this page, so that you can enjoy more of this beautiful artwork. Lamentation and Giotto's other work in the interior of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy display clear Renaissance styles at a time when the art scene in Europe was still dominated by the Byzantine. Any artist who contributes to developments in art history will always retain a particularly important role in the story of past movements and genres. Giotto, Masaccio and Cimabue were integral in pushing new ideas within Italian art and this, in turn, developed across the rest of Europe.
The Mourning of Christ is a scene found on countless occasions in Renaissance art, from a time when religion was particularly involved in all sections of society. The bible tells followers of how Christ was mourned after being taken from the cross. This is an emotional scene where the son of god is discovered, perhaps one of the most powerful scenes to be in all religious scripture. Many notable artists have devoted entire series of work to the life of Christ, creating a biography of his life through individual chapters of the Bible, delivered individually across a number of artworks, be it frescoes, carved blocks or drawings. Indeed, these themes also appear as individual items in other examples, often when specifically requested by religious institutions who were commissioning each project themselves.
Powerful scenes would tempt artists from the Renaissance with their inspiring tales from religious teachings. Another significant factor was that the best paid commissions for artists at this time would often come from religious institutions too. It was virtually impossible to build a career at this time without covering such themes. Indeed, just to focus on Lamentation, this topic was covered by other famous artists such as Albrecht Durer, Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt and Sandro Botticelli. Most of the influence from Renaissance art would come from Italy but there was also considerable achievements from artists elsewhere in the continent, such as Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain. It is almost as if each country has taken its turn over the past few centuries to contribute influential movements which, in turn, have developed artistic ideas and styles.
Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) was completed over the years of 1304-06 and is sized at 200 cm x 185 cm. Its format would have been restricted by the overall project within the Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel) in Padua but Giotto would have had plenty of time to plan accordingly. The overall display is quite extraordinary, one of the finest series of frescoes in Italian Renaissance history. This scene features a collection of sorrow and grief, displayed powerfully in the faces of those who mourn the loss of Christ. The bottom half of the canvas if filled with these emotional figures, positioned in front of a small rock face which helps to frame the composition and also add some aesthetic interest and an element of perspective. Behind that appears to be a faint outline of a larger series of mountains. Giotto chose not to add too much detail here in order to avoid distracting the eye from the key elements of the scene.
In order to underline the significance of this death, Giotto then appends many more individuals on the left hand side, but with reduced detail in order to add as many as possible. At the top of the scene we find angels displaying similar expressions of grief and sorrow. This helps to connect Christ to both humanity and also the Gods above. There is also a tree to the right hand side of the scene which looks dishevelled, representing the loss of Christ's life and also the overall theme of sadness and desperation. The woman holding his body is believed to be his mother, perhaps the other figures in this scene are actually just an extension of her own pain and sorrow. Many artists over the centuries have addressed Christ's life and done so in different ways - Murillo, for example, was able to present this icon as if another human, helping followers to build up their faith.
Location of the Lamentation Fresco
The scene of the Lamentation of Christ is just one artwork to be found within the Scrovegni Chapel. This important building can be found in in Padua, Veneto, Italy. It is not too far from Venice, which has placed it on the tourist map for many international art fans who are able to fit it in fairly easily as part of a wider tour of the country. The Lamentation of Christ specifically sits on the lower tier of the north wall, but most visitors will have a more general interest in the series of artworks that Giotto produced here. Just within this section of the wall, for example, you will also find other beautiful artworks such as The Ascent to Calvary, Crucifixion, The Resurrection of Jesus, Ascension and Pentecost. The chapel itself was announced as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site as recently as 2021 and this was predominantly due to the fresco cycle created by Giotto.
Its inclusion with UNESCO has led to an increase in tourism to the chapel and also its inclusion on a greater number of tour itineries, meaning it is fairly easy to arrange a visit to this popular spot. The chapel also has a website in multiple languages which aims to help their international audience to find the location more easily, as well as to learn more about the different paintings online, for those unable to visit in person. The whole cycle is still regarded by some as one of the most important achievements in western art, due to the period in which it was produced and the number of other notable artists who would visit and learn more from it. For those interested in religious architecture, there are also several other buildings close by in Padua to visit as well, including Monastero degli Eremitani which is an Augustinian monastery.
The artist worked with around forty assistants upon the overall project and at the time of its inception he was still only in his late thirties. It would therefore be an important commission within his career, and a costly one for Enrico Scrovegni who provided the finance to cover the wages of all these many artists. Giotto would have trusted his helpers, and not allowed just anyone to contribute to a project which ultimately bore his name. Large art studios were very common until even after the Renaissance, because of how many artists would be required to produce large scale artworks in order to cater to the large buildings of those periods. It is only now that the norm is very much for smaller pieces which can hang in standard sized homes. Most of the greats from the time of Giotto through to Raphael towards the end of the Renaissance would have studios in which assistants were trained to a very high level so that larger commissions could be taken on and delivered in good time.
Famous Paintings by Giotto di Bondone
Despite have a career that was so many centuries ago, we are still able to enjoy much of this artist's work today. A good number of frescoes have been confidently attributed to his name, with some of the other highlights listed below. You will immediately notice the common theme of religion which is found in all of his work, and this was entirely typical of this era, and that continued into the Renaissance as well. The likes of Giotto would make significant development which then influenced later artists, who took his achievements and added in their own innovations. The cycle would then continue ever onwards, as we travelled through the different periods of the Renaissance itself, and then into the Baroque which followed on afterwards, slowly leading to ideas and techniques which began in Italy and Northern Europe, and eventually spread across the entire continent.
Larger Image of Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) by Giotto
In order to really appreciate this fresco it is important to view it in as much detail as possible, and so for this reason we have included a larger version below. Despite the painting being produced in the very early 14th century, over 600 years ago, it has been restored and preserved fairly well and so we can still understand and appreciate most of the original work in the present day. Several institutions have taken super high resolution photographs of Lamentation but these can only be viewed via their websites, for a fee, and so the images included within this website are all provided from free to use sources which encourage the spread and education of art history through fair usage. These avenues are important for us to illustrate the entire work of this artist, as well as all the others covered within this website, though the quality of imagery on art from the 14th century is not always as good as we would like.