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The Lamentation
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Masters of Dirc van Delf
Dutch, Utrecht, about 1405 - 1410
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 1/2 x 4 5/8 in.
MS. 40, FOL. 68V

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In this miniature of the Lamentation, Jesus' twisting body faces the viewer as his lifeless limbs extend in front of the frame on three sides. The tender assistance of the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist draws attention to Jesus' wounds, stimulating the viewer's meditation on his sacrifice. His wounds are graphically rendered as open gashes dripping with blood. The saturated primary colors of the frame and draperies further set off Jesus' pale, emaciated body. Behind the figures, the pink cross picks up the faint, glowing hues of his suffering body. The full-page Lamentation appears within a sequence of images retelling the Passion story in this book of hours, the most popular type of private devotional manuscript of the later Middle Ages. The miniature of the Virgin and John mourning over the body of Jesus was particularly appropriate to a culture interested in devotional practices. Inspired by a burgeoning literature describing his torments, pious individuals increasingly focused their meditations on Jesus' suffering.