Oak Carving of the Lamentation of Christ
This evocative oak and polychrome sculpture carved and painted by an unknown Netherlandish artist in the 16th century, models the subject of the Lamentation of Christ, an emotional scene popular in Christian imagery between the 11th and 19th centuries. Central to the sculptural group is the reclining corpse of Christ and the Virgin Mary, who holds her son in her monumental lap as she mourns for him. They are accompanied by several important biblical figures clothed in ancient dress including Mary Magdalene (top left), St. John the Evangelist (bottom left), Joseph of Arimathea (top right), and the prophet Nicodemus (bottom right) who holds a jar of ointment for the embalming of Christ’s body before his burial. This group, with some variations, follows a common representation of the scene. The size of this particular sculpture, in addition to its subject matter, indicates its probable use as a domestic devotional object, which would have been placed in the home and used for prayer and spiritual reflection on a daily basis. This type of heightened emotional imagery exists as the product of the Modern Devotion, a popular religious and cultural movement which prioritized the need for a greater connection to the divine through empathetic-provocation often in the form of imagery. This is further evident in the non-canonical nature of the scene, which was born out of the need to visualize the human response to the death of Christ in a tangible form.
At this time in the Netherlands, the Dutch East India Company was established in 1602 to protect the state’s trade in the Indian Ocean, and to assist the Dutch in their struggle for independence with Spain. The Company was a success, and prospered through most of the 17th century, establishing a powerful Dutch commercial empire. The Company was dissolved in 1799, and is sometimes considered today to have been the world’s first multinational corporation.