Lamentation By Quentin Massys As An Example Of Flemish High Renaissance Art Essay Example
Lamentation By Quentin Massys As An Example Of Flemish High Renaissance Art Essay Example

Lamentation By Quentin Massys As An Example Of Flemish High Renaissance Art Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1546 words)
  • Published: April 10, 2017
  • Type: Art Analysis
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Throughout centuries of Christian history, topics related to the last days of Jesus life, Crucifixion and His following Resurrection were among the most popular in the West European art.

Even being pushed back by Renaissance humanist interest to secular motives, they still attracted indefatigable attention of all noticeable European painters. The style and filling of such paintings differ dependently on the place and time of creation.This paper is to examine one particular painting, called “Lamentation” by Flemish artist Quentin Massys, and study it’s conformity with the texts of the Bible, as well as it’s connection with other similar masterpieces of the time. Quentin Massys (also: Matsys, Metsys) was the most important Antwerp artist of the first half of the XVI century.

The painting, known as “Lamentation”, constitutes a ce


ntral panel of the Altarpiece from in the Cathedral of Antwerp, painted by Massys in 1508-1511 by order of the local Guild of Carpenters. He used oil and wood – traditional materials for church altarpieces.Presently the painting can be found in the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum of Fine Arts), Antwerp, Belgium. The painting depicts the most sorrowful moment of the New Testament – the scene of Descent from the Cross and grieve for Jesus. The body of the Savior is already brought down from Golgotha, which dominates in the background and is ready for burial.

The descriptions of this moment differ in all the four Gospels, however, it seems, that Massys used the most full of them – the Gospel according to Saint John. The story of preceding events is more or less similar in all the four Gospels.After Christ death “there came

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rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him” (Matthew 27:33-61). Mark specifies, that Joseph was not only a reach man, but also a “prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:22-47), Luke adds, that he “had not consented to their decision and action” (Luke 23:27-56), and John explains, that Joseph visited Pilate secretly, because he was afraid of Jews.

(John 19:16-42). Those descriptions do not contradict each other.With Pilate’s permission, Joseph took down the body of Jesus. The evidence of Apostles about consequent doings vary. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell, that Joseph alone “wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.

He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away” (Matthew 27:33-61). Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus have seen that, but did not take part. Luke also says, that “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment” (Luke 23:27-56). So, finally the entire work was done only by Joseph.

John speaks of quite a different course of events. In his Gospel, Joseph “was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five

pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:16-42). So, John mentions a man, who helped Joseph, but no women. In total, all the four Apostles mention the following persons being present at the Descent from the Cross and Lamentation: Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Mary, the mother of Christ, Mary Magdalene and the two women from Galilee.

All of them are mentioned separately and never at once.The number of persons, greeting for Jesus is never more than three. Despite of that, we can see at least ten persons on the painting of Massys. Position of figures is traditional for all paintings, depicting the topic, repeated both by Giotto in his “Lamentation over Jesus” (1305) and in “Deposition” by Rogier van der Veyden (1435). The body of Jesus lays with his head left and his legs right in relation to the spectator.

Other figures are all clearly recognized: Joseph of Arimathea is a burly well-dressed man, holding Christ’s head and possibly trying to remove the crown of thorns.A bearded man, holding the body of Jesus is for sure Nicodemus. A young man, wearing red and upholding the Virgin is Saint John. Mary Magdalene kneels before the Saviors feet, obviously to anoit them with oil and perfumes.

The three women are the ones who followed Jesus

from Galilee, and the fourth one can be spotted in the cave, with burial cloth in her hands. Another character is a middle-aged man, staying behind Nicodemus back. He can not be named exactly, but perhaps it is a servant, since he holds three nails in his hand.There can be found some differences in the named paintings, for example Weyden caused the Virgin to faint, and Giotto moved Joseph and Nicodemus to the right, but the general scheme remains the same. The figure of Christ stands in the center of Massys’s painting as well as other similar works. One can observe a corpse of a tall spindling man with traces of torture.

His skin is pallid, and his limbs are lifeless. Dark holes from nails are seen on his feet and hands. The face is turned to a spectator, and there is nothing divine in it, but it also does not look dead.Jesus seem to be deeply sleeping. Such face would never be corruptible.

The manner of drowing dead body is very similar to the one at the painting of van der Weyden, it may seem, that they depicted the same dead man in continuous moments. It is hard to say exactly, why there are so many figures in the painting. Moreover, the paintings of other artists on the similar topic include more figures, for example Weyden’s “Deposition” includes eight and there is an entire crowd of 17 people, as well as angels in Giotto’s “Lamentation over Jesus”. There can be two explanations to such massive Lamentation.

First of all, the painters were willing to reflect all the figures of sacred history, who were reminded in

connection with the burial of Jesus. Since the number of women of Galilee is not named, their number differs from two to nine. Also, Saint John, who left the most detailed description of the event, is always shown as one of the main characters. Massys has also added a servant, which is logical, taking into account, that Joseph was reach and noble. Another explanation is that painters were willing to reflect the allness of sorrow after Jesus (which in no way corresponds to the Bible), and therefore need as much characters as possible.

Artistically, the “Lamentation” by Massys stands in the line of the most famous paintings, devoted to the subject, including Giotto’s “Lamentation” and later “Lamentation of Christ” by Paolo Veroneze. Massys’s painting represents a prominent example of North European Flemish High Renaissance art. The features, making this masterpiece attributable exactly to Renaissance are: - The humanistic approach to depicting characters. The Virgin and the Saints are not icons, their passions and emotions can be read in their faces, and Jesus himself looks more like a man who died suffering, but not like a King of Heaven.Deep prospective, which distinguishes the work by Massys from the earlier ones by Giotto, who painted only plain dark blue background, and Weyden, who replaced the prospective by yellow shield. Depth perception is not yet so perfect as at the paintings by Veroneze, nevertheless, Massys’s “Lamentation” is one of the first paintings in Flemish art, where the scenery not only decorates the composition, but also plays an active role, helping to understand the course of actions.

The background here is the Golgotha itself, where two thieves are still hanging, and

some man is bringing away a ladder, which has been obviously used by Joseph. - The colors and tones, chosen by the artist are already not so contrasting, as it pertained to earlier style of International Gothic, and yet not so vivid, as it pertains to Late renaissance. The faces and bodies are not grayish pale, and also not quite vivid. They are not icons, but they are still not portraits.Summarizing the overstated it can be indicated, that “Lamentation” by Quentin Massys is not a singular masterpiece, it is one of the entire set of similar paintings, completed by almost all the West European artists. It bears all the considerable features of typical religious painting, including subject, composition and figures, however it includes numerous new trends such as prospective and humanistic approach to characters.

This picture is one of the paintings, which mark the beginning of Renaissance era in the history of Flemish art.

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