Alejo de Vahía
(active c. 1480–1515)
Polychromed and gilded wood
41 x 37 x 10 1/2 in. (104.1 x 94 x 26.7 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase, Meadows Museum Acquisition Fund, MM.89.02
Hear a reading of the object label (1:10 minutes)
This compelling polychromed sculpture evokes with intensity and pathos of one of the most moving events of the Christian story: the lamentation of Christ’s family and followers appear to meditate on his crucified body. The group huddles in a semicircle around the lifeless body, now bluish but bleeding in death. The figures’ gazes, fixated on the wounded Christ in his mother’s arms, invites a mimetic response in the viewer, inspiring contemplation of Christ’s physical suffering and the emotional anguish of his survivors.
Alejo de Vahía worked in a late Gothic idiom closely related to German traditions and has often been surmised to be of German descent himself. Certainly it was common at this time for Northern artists to ply their trade in Castile, where their presence was encouraged by the international tastes of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.
This narrative group once belonged to a larger carved altarpiece, which probably contained several additional narrative scenes from the Passion of Christ. This accounts for the work’s tightly clustered composition and slightly tipped perspective, which would have been more easily seen by a viewer looking up at the altarpiece from a distance.