This work is the largest and most spectacular surviving example of sculptural maiolica from the Renaissance. The standing figures are set in high relief against a landscape of rocky yellow earth and green grass. Conceived as an altarpiece, the scene depicts the moment of grief and reflection after Christ’s body is taken down from the cross. It allowed the artist—a highly skilled potter—to explore the expressive potential of his medium.
Although this work surpasses in ambition many earthenware vessels from the period, it was made with traditional maiolica techniques. Therefore, the color palette is limited due to the chemical properties of the pigments. The patterns on the mourners’ garments are related to contemporary European fashion but also recall the energetic Spanish-influenced ornament found on many objects in this exhibition.
Inscription: Inscribed on back of section (h), in probably 18th-century hand:Luca / dalla Robia / fece l’an[ ] / 1487 [trans.: Luca della Robbia made it in the year 1487]; Inscribed on central band on section (g): M; inscribed on central band of section (h): CCCCLXXXVII [together, 1487]
Count Ferdinando Pasolini dall'Onda , Faenza ; Count Benvenuto Pasolini dall'Onda , Faenza (until 1853; sale, 42, rue de Jeûneurs, Paris, December 13–15, 1853, no. 90); J.-A. Berthon , Versailles (by 1865–d. 1867; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 16–20, 1867, no. 24); Émile Gaillard , Paris (until d. 1902; his heirs; his sale, his hôtel, 1, place Malasherbes, Paris, June 8–16, 1904, no. 400. sold for 42,000 francs to Duveen); [ Duveen Brothers , 1904; sold to MMA ]