Lamentation Beneath the Cross

Artist: Adam Lenckhart (1610–1661)

Date: 1632

Culture: Austrian, carved in Italy

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: 10-7/8 x 5-3/4 in. (27.6 x 14.6 cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Miniature

Credit Line: Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923

Accession Number: 24.80.87


Official ivory carver to Prince Karl Eusebius of Liechtenstein in Vienna, the German artist Adam Lenckhart (1610–1661) is thought to have spent his early career (ca. 1632–36/37) in Italy, where he was influenced by the work of Renaissance artists and the sculpture of classical antiquity. These influences are apparent in his works illustrated here, as are the carving traditions of his homeland—the meticulous, almost obsessive attention to naturalistic detail, facilitated by ivory's distinctive grain.

The fine perspectival gradation of the Lamentation relief, translucently thin in areas, creates a painterly effect of distant background, while the foreground is filled with vivid detail—the finely carved crown of thorns, the carefully observed leafy ferns, the bent nails removed from holes clearly indicated on the cross. Lenckhart often employed such detail to great expressive effect; here, the precise carving of the strands of hair curtaining the face of the Magdalene draws our gaze to her grief-stricken form. This relief was one of a pair presented to a young nun entering a convent.

[Johanna Hecht, 2008]