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This painting from 1609 is one of several different interpretations of the topic of the Lamentation of Christ by Peter Paul Rubens. He regularly revisited religious themes such as this and try to take an alternative approach each time.
This version features Christ lying stricken on a white cloth, accompanied by two figures (the Virgin and Mary Magdalene) within a setting drenched in light. The rest of the composition is entirely black, leaving a strong contrast and a striking image. The emotions are heightened by this style, just as Rubens would have intended. The artist uses torches within the scene to justify such dramatic lighting and includes them within the painting, to the right hand side. We have found several drawings for this artwork that were uncovered in various collections which have also allowed us to get a better understanding of the planning processes undertaken by the artist. It is likely that he completed the entire work himself, without any assistance, because of its relatively small size and also the lack of detail across the background.
The piece shows an influence from both Caravaggio and Titian, both of whom were studied by Rubens during his time in Italy. He was highly knowledgeable around Italian art more generally and was vocal in his respect for it. This is actually one of the artist's smallest paintings, measuring just a third of a metre tall and wide, approximately. Rubens is much better known for producing huge canvases that stretch to several metres wide, often as a result of the intended position in which these commissioned pieces were to be hung once complete.
The Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, Germany own this artwork as part of an impressive collection which features a good number of related artists from the Baroque and Renaissance eras. You will find further Flemish painters here as well as those from Germany and Italy. Some of the other highlights to be found in this exciting and diverse gallery include Portrait of a Young Girl by Petrus Christus, Amor Victorious by Caravaggio, Christ Carrying the Cross by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and also the delightful piece of Company at a Meal by David Teniers the Younger. All in all, it is an impressive selection both in terms of quantity and quality and is a good introduction to European art history across several centuries.