Descent from the Cross, Duc de Berry

Question for Bible study groups

  • Compare the miniature painting from the book belonging to the Duc de Berry (below), with the famous Lamentation by Roger van der Weyden in the Prado (below right). Which do you prefer? Why?

The Belles Heures of the Duc de Berry includes no less than three scenes of Christ on the cross. One of these is a painting showing Jesus’ family and disciples lowering the body from the cross. Christ is mourned by his companions and his body is displayed. The composition is thus a precursor of the famous Lamentation by Roger van der Weyden in the Prado  (see the link below)

an der Weyden, Christ taken down from the crossBut the artist here replaced realistic items such as ladders with the slender converging diagonals of the lance and reed. They seem to provide support to the two symmetrical angels, who though quite substantial lack lower limbs and end in floating draperies.

The corpse is not easily held upright, although the figures press against it as buttresses.

The man at the right (Nicodemus?) beneath Christ’s arm tries hard, but Joseph of Arimathea remains rather detached. Perhaps that is why in the end the painter, confused about this man’s role, made him an oddly mannered figure.

The two angels are related in color to figures diagonally opposite in the compact principal group. The four grieving angels in the quatrefoils of the richly decorated frame are also arranged diagonally in pairs, two with blue tunics on red backgrounds and two in pink on blue. Similarly two of them pray, and two lament.

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Modern images of Jesus and Mary
Birth of Jesus