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Object details

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
c. 1640
115,5 × 207,5 cm
Inventory number: 

More about this work

The dead Christ is lying stretched out with his head on the Virgin’s lap. The rock face behind them is an allusion to the Holy Sepulchre. The apostle John is showing two angels the wound left by the nails used to fasten Christ to the Cross. The Virgin, in her bitter sorrow, is making a despairing gesture with her outstretched arms that is an echo of the Crucifixion. By using the five figures to fill the picture surface, Van Dyck involves the viewer totally in the moving event. The cool, autumnal palette also evokes a feeling of deep sorrow.
The donor of this painting was Cesare Alessandro Scaglia (1592-1641), abbot of Staffarda and Mandanice, who represented the House of Savoy in Rome, Paris and London, and from 1627 in Brussels and Madrid as well. In 1632 Scaglia moved to Brussels and entered Spanish service. Three years later he fell very ill and barely escaped death. In 1637 he became a member of the Franciscn order in Antwerp.
The painting was part of a marble tomb that Scaglia had ordered for the Chapel of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin in the Franciscan Church in Antwerp, also known as the Church of the Friars Minor or Recollects. A statue of the Virgin with an impaled heart stood above the painting. The Franciscans made a point of emphasising the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows as joint Redeemer. Her role in the life, suffering and death of the Redeemer was subordinate but vital. The altar was destroyed after 1794. A similar one in the Franciscan Church in Turnhout gives an idea of the original appearance. The chapel was dedicated in 1637, but it emerges from Scaglia’s will that the altar was not erected until after his death in 1641.
Scaglia had the opportunity to commission this painting from Van Dyck when he was in Antwerp in October 1640. It was assumed in the earlier literature that Van Dyck painted the canvas in Brussels around 1634-1635, but its style seems to belong more in his later output. There is a preliminary study for the figure of Christ in New York (The Morgan Library & Museum, inv. no. I, 243).

Acquisition history

Restoration sponsored by Stichting Cornelis Floris vzw, 1999
commissioned by: Caesar Alexander Scaglia

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