Gift of David P. Becker, Class of 1970, in honor of Katharine J. Watson
In this etching, considered Parmigianino’s masterpiece in the medium, Christ’s followers mourn his death as they prepare his body for burial. Parmigianino movingly captures the mourners’ varied responses with his faintly etched lines. The artist compresses eleven figures into the middle third of the print, heightening the emotional charge of the scene. St. Mary Magdalene gently lowers Christ’s frail, nude body onto the stone of unction (anointing), where it will be prepared for burial. Even as his form slumps in death, his slender ankles cross beautifully. Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, gazes longingly at her dead son as she faints, suggesting her role in the redemption of mankind in Roman Catholic doctrine. In typical Mannerist fashion, she exudes female grace, as seen in her youthful face, bared throat, and fashionably high-belted garment that emphasizes small, sharply defined breasts.