Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lamentation of Christ

The New Testament in Art
Lamentation for Christ
Albrecht Dürer

Lamentation for Christ was created by artist Albrecht Dürer between 1500 and 1503. He created Lamentation for Christ for Albrecht Glimm who dedicated the painting to his first wife, Margareth Holzhausen, who was deceased. Dürer was raised in Nuremberg and had completed his first painting by age 13. He used mixtures of dark and somber colors within his paintings—which suggests depth and produces a deep atmosphere. Dürer uses many techniques found in the Renaissance period but also adds his own unique style to each of his paintings. Many of his paintings have Italian features to them because of his early inspiration with Italian art.

The Renaissance Period a cultural movement that affected European literature, philosophy, art, religion, science and politics. Renaissance scholars incorporated the humanist method into study and would often search for realism and human emotion in paintings, poetry, and other forms of art. Renaissance art focuses on lighting and shades along with the human anatomy in great detail.

Lamentation for Christ has two main themes to look at within this painting. The first has to do with the back ground or scenery. What caught my eye first in this painting was the contrast between the mountains and the skyline. The contrast of color really pops and helps bring out the evil that Dürer was trying to symbolize with the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23: 44-45). The light on the mountains and city represents the hope that Saint Peter references when mentioning the sun shining again.

The city in the painting is suppose to represent the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus was tried and crucified. However, the Dürer draws a modern Nordic village which does not accurately represent Jerusalem at the time of Jesus being nailed to the cross. I believe he wanted to portray Jerusalem in a modern, for the time, light to not only help the viewer relate to the scene but also to give it character from the Renaissance time period.

Below the city, you can see the open tomb that represents the place where Jesus was laid before he had risen. It is also noted that you can see an uncovered sarcophagus. There is no explanation for why Dürer thought it necessary to add the tomb with such detail, but I believe this was just what he envisioned he would see if he was present at the time of the crucifixion.

The second theme of Lamentation for Christ is the people present in the painting. First, I noticed the individuals are dressed in clothing from Dürer’s time period, not in clothing from when Jesus was present on Earth. I understand that he wished to portray the individuals as modern civilians that one might find walking on the street during the Renaissance era, making it easier for a viewer to relate to the picture’s meaning. This painting is traditional Dutch interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ which could also explain the dress of the individuals.

Standing below the cross are Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, and St. John. The color of their clothing is very distinct and snags the attention of the viewer’s eye. They are also the brightest characters in the painting, implying they see hope in the near future. Mary, holding Jesus’ hand, is weeping tears and joined by the other two Mary’s in the painting. Madonna is in the center of the picture wearing very dark clothing and is next to a weeping woman. Joseph of Arimathea is supporting Jesus’ body, which is pale and lifeless showing the true suffering he encountered when being crucified on the cross.

The characters in the painting are quite large and have a lot of detail compared to other New Testament paintings. The features of the people add more meaning to what emotions they are feeling during Jesus’ death. Their bold appearance tugs at the heart of the individual studying the painting more than just depicting a scene from the New Testament would. Dürer was trying to draw attention to how passionate and moving the actual day of Christ’s death was for the present individuals.

At the bottom corners of the picture, Albrecht Glimm, his sons, daughter, and his wife represent the medieval tradition of drawing the donor into artist’s creation. However, these characters show no purpose other than to classify what time period the painting was from. Dürer loved to incorporate Renaissance style into each one of his paintings to make them unique, in which he does quite well in Lamentation for Christ.


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