Nicolas Poussin, French, 1594-1665
Title: The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
Date: 1657
Medium: Oil on canvas
94 x 130 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1882
Object Number: NGI.214
DescriptionNicolas Poussin spent most of his working life in Rome. He painted historical, mythological and biblical subjects. Although restrained in movement, his pictures are highly charged with drama and emotional intensity, and he used light, colour, gesture and expression to great effect. He is known to have made models of the figures in his paintings, which he arranged in a perspective box. By moving the sides of the box, he would then plan how and where light should fall within the composition.
This painting, veiled in darkness and solemn in mood, is one of the artist’s late works. It depicts the sombre moment after Christ’s body has been embalmed and is about to be interred. Joseph of Arimathea kneels at the entrance to the tomb while St John raises Christ’s head on to his lap. Mary Magdalene kisses Christ’s hand; behind her is the woman known as ‘other Mary’. the grief-stricken figure of the Virgin looks downwards and wipes away her tears with her blue cloak. The jar and basin refer to the anointing with ‘myrrh and aloes to preserve the body’ (John 19:39). In the background, a tree bearing new shoots alludes to Christ’s Resurrection.

March 2016

Provenance(?) Pointel; (?) collection Louis Bauyn de Cormery (inventory made at his death on 19 January 1701, no.432); (?) collection Samuel Bossiere (1620-1703); The Hague, 19 May 1723, D. Potter sale, lot 1; The Hague, 11 August 1733, The Adriaan Bout sale, lot 5; Brussels, 22 May 1760, Van Merstraeten sale, lot 31; Peter Coxe, London, 17 May 1798, Bryan sale, lot 21; collection Sir William Hamilton, in Scotland by 1837; purchased Christie's, London, 17 July 1882, Hamilton Palace sale, lot 1120
Exhibition HistoryExhibition of French Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1932

Chefs d'oeuvre de l'art français, Palais National des Arts, Paris, 1937

Exposition Nicolas Poussin, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1960

L'ideale classico del Seicento in Italia, Palazzo del Archiginnasio, Bologna, 1962

Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Villa Medici, Rome; Stadtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, 1977-1978

Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery, London, 1985

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 27 September 1994 - 2 January 1995; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 19 January - 9 April 1995

Poussin, Academie de France, Rome, 18 October 2000 - 28 January 2001

Samuel Beckett: A Passion for Paintings, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 15 June - 17 September 2006

Nicolas Poussin, La Fuite en Égypte, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 15 February - 19 May 2008

Lines of Vision. Irish Writers at the National Gallery of Ireland, 8 October 2014 —12 April 2015

Poussin et la peinture religieuse, Louvre, Paris, April - June 2015
Label TextPoussin painted this picture late in his career. It shows Christ’s mother and followers gathered in mourning after his crucifixion. Saint John is at Christ’s head. Mary Magdalene holds his hand to her cheek, behind her stands the woman known as the ‘other Mary’. At the right, Joseph of Arimathea kneels by the entrance of the tomb. Mary, Christ’s mother, wipes away tears with her cloak. In the background, a tree bearing new shoots symbolically alludes to Christ’s Resurrection. Poussin has charged the composition with emotional intensity through his dramatic use of light and colour.

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