Crossing Boundaries: Lamentation of Christ

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Andrea Mantegna, Lamentation of Christ, 1480
Crossing Boundaries
By EMMA SHAPIRO

The Lamentation of Christ was a commonly depicted theme for artists from the Medieval ages and the Renaissance to the Baroque. It shows the period of mourning after Christ's crucifixion. Since many artists painted their own versions of the Lamentation of Christ, many variations of design and composure exist. However, Andrea Mantegna's depiction of the Lamentation of Christ differs from most other paintings of the scene in many ways. Mantegna looks at the scene through a perspective that other artists had yet to imagine. He strayed from the common layouts that consist of much more contact between the mourner's and Christ, and uses light, shadows, and drapery to emphasize the suffering of the figures. 

Mantegna portrays Christ at an angle from his feet and uses the method of foreshortening to make Christ appear shorter. At the time this optical illusion was fairly uncommon to artists, but after Mantegna's mastery of it, foreshortening became a standard part in training artists. The shortening of Christ's body and the distance of the mourners pull more emphasis to the anatomical details of the body. From this angle Mantegna can highlight Christ's thorax as well as the holes on his hands and feet. The close intimacy the of the work shows the deep rips of the holes. The drapery falls between Christ's legs and and wraps around his pelvic area to highlight the genitals, a symbol of humanity. 

Mantegna tested the limits of artistic freedoms and painted in a way unimagined before. He took the chance to cross an artistic boundary and received boundless praise for doing so. Artists now model their works off of Andrea Mantegna's creativity and boldness. 

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