The art of alabaster experienced a veritable Golden Age in Europe in the 16th century. In Flanders, for example, the Mechelen workshops developed a serial production of small alabaster reliefs illustrating episodes from the life of Christ; intended to adorn large church altars or more modest domestic altarpieces. By its typology and its subject, our relief of the Lamentation could be related to this production. However, by many criteria, it differs from these standardized works, as evidenced first by the originality of its composition organized around the lifeless body of Christ, supported by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who wrap it in sheets. This group is accompanied in the background by a third blunt male figure as well as a grieving holy woman. In the foreground, the Virgin seated on the ground, hands clasped in prayer, lets herself go in the arms of Saint John. Within the standardized production of Flemish alabaster, this composition never seems to have been taken up again. Only the singular group of Mary and Saint John finds a distant echo in the foreground of certain albaster Crucifixions made by the sculptor Jean Mone who, after having been active in Spain and traveled in Italy, acquired his fame in Flanders by working as a sculptor at the court of Charles V, where his alabasters contributed to introduce certain antique accents and novelties of the Renaissance. Such an influence is evident in the heavy and fluid drapes with the soft contours of the fabrics of our protagonists. The elegant arabesques chiseled on the breeches and surcoats of some of them also evoke those that are sometimes found on the armor of the soldiers who populate the compositions of Mone and his workshop, without however being completely superimposed on them. Also, they do not translate the same concern for refinement and comparable ornamental research, whereas here it is pushed to its climax on the sleeves which cover the forearms of our holy woman. As for the abandoned head of Christ and his hair with airy wavy locks, it can be compared to that of one of the characters in distress on the relief of Hope which adorns the tomb of the church of Enghien made by Jean Mone around 1525-1528, but also that of Christ on the very beautiful alabaster relief of the Lamentation of the Cigarral de Menores attributed to Alonso Berruguete. On this one, the assertive antique profile of the protagonists and their great expressiveness mirror the figures of our relief, thus possibly signing its realization in Spain in the second quarter of the 16th century. This hypothesis tends to be confirmed by the many more or less satisfactory comparisons previously made with the work of Jean Mone, whose "Spanish inflection" of style and artistic debt to Spain have been demonstrated many times over the course of the last decades.
With frame: H. 40; L. 46 cm.
Without frame: H. 29.5; L. 36 cm.
2 600 €