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Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, 1405–1408/9. Herman, Paul, and Jean de Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum; 9 3/8 x 6 5/8 in. (23.8 x 16.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1).
Hours of the Passion
The Lamentation, Folio 149v
The scene of mourning over the dead body of Christ was a late medieval addition to passion cycles, and this is one of the earliest examples by a French painter. The emotional power of the scene evoked an empathetic piety and personal response typical of the later middle ages. The body of Christ, with his angular limbs, recalls a Netherlandish painting, but the emotional gesture of the woman pulling her hair at the top and the prostrate pose of Mary Magdalen at lower right depend on Italian precedents.
Listen to a sample from the exhibition Audio Guide:
Audio Guide Transcript
Tom Campbell: As the bloodied body of Christ is placed on the ground, Mary Magdalene kneels, bent over in the foreground. But we don’t see her face, only one arm in blue jutting out of her robe. There’s a golden container of oil next to her.
Timothy Husband: The kneeling figure of the Mary Magdalene, seen from the reverse, is a highly inventive and unusual representation. She’s leaning over Christ, rubbing salve on his wounded feet.
Tom Campbell: In the adjoining image of soldiers guarding Christ’s tomb [Folio 152v], there’s another interesting contrast of hidden and revealed faces. All of the soldier’s faces are obscured. But in the corner, the military shield has a gaping mouth and staring eyes, seeming to confront the viewer.