The Lamentation

Lucas Cranach, the Elder (German, 1472–1553)


60.3 x 40.0 cm (23 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on panel

On View

William A. Coolidge Gallery (Gallery 243A)





A traditionally Catholic subject, the lamentation over the dead Christ is described in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus, not in the canonical Bible. Here, Nicodemus holds Mary Magdalene’s ointment jar, and Joseph of Arimathea, with the crown of thorns, comforts the mourning Virgin. Saint John supports the dead Christ while Mary Magdalene kneels to kiss the wound on Christ’s hand. Despite the religious upheaval in northern Europe, Cranach’s Protestantism did not prevent him from accepting commissions for Catholic patrons.


Lower left, on rock: 1538 / winged dragon symbol


August 26, 1709, presented in Brno, Czech Republic, possibly by Maria Josepha Antonia (b. 1686 - d.1771), Countess of Oettingen and Countess von Paar [see note 1]. Desfours-Walderode collection, Czech Republic or Austria [see note 2]. Charles Sumner (b. 1811 - d. 1874), Boston and Washington, DC; 1874, bequest of Charles Sumner to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 17, 1874)

[1] On the reverse of the panel is an old, paper label that reads: "Franciscus Antonius Comes de Lichtenstein obtulit JO[sef]a Comitissa Paar Nata Comitissa De Otting[en] pro aeterna memoria die 26 Augusti brünae Anno 1709" . The exact meaning of this inscription has not yet been deciphered.

[2] On the reverse of the panel is an old, paper label with the Desfours de Mont et d'Athienville coat of arms beside the Walderode coat of arms. It reads "Lucas Kranach," and bears an inventory number, possibly 145, 845, or 945.

Credit Line

Bequest of Charles Sumner