14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts Level 1, NGV International
Carved in wood with polychrome surfaces and some gilding, the Pieta group with the figure of the dead Christ lying across the Virgin's knees. Consistent with the handling of works in this idiom, the back of the carving has been hollowed out with broad strokes of the gouge.
The Pietà (Italian for pity) is a type of devotional image which developed in Germany at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In its most common form it depicts, as in this early sixteenth-century example, the Virgin Mary sorrowfully cradling the dead body of her son Christ. The scene is not an episode recorded anywhere in the Gospel narrative. It is instead an example of an Andachtsbild: an image consisting of holy persons extracted from any narrative context in order to form a highly focused and emotionally powerful vignette for contemplation.