The Pietà, depicting the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ in her lap, became a popular devotional image in the later Middle Ages. It developed out of mystical writings that focused on the contemplation of the suffering of Christ and his mother. This composition, a poignant portrayal of a mother mourning over the body of her son, has been constricted by positioning the Virgin's arms in an attitude of meditation with her now missing hands together in prayer. SS. James the Greater, dressed as a pilgrim with a typical travelling bursa, (or pouch), and Nicholas flank the pair. St. Nicholas, robed in episcopal vestments, is identified by the three boys (whom he saved from death) seen in the tub at his feet.
John D. Rockefeller Jr., New York (until 1925)
Forsyth, William H. "Medieval Statues of the Pietà in the Museum." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 11, no. 7 (March 1953). p. 181.
Forsyth, William Holmes. The Pietà in French Late Gothic Sculpture: Regional Variations. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. pp. 32-33, 178, 203 n. 23, fig. 21, Listed under The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 3.
Husband, Timothy B. "Creating the Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 70, no. 4 (Spring 2013). p. 16, fig. 28.