Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Mr Ashbless is no longer working in Bologna, so it is with some regret that I realise I'm never likely to return to a city whose history, cuisine, and art are nothing short of sublime. I had some wonderful times there.

Here's one last hit of Bologna: an extraordinary work of religious art like nothing else I've ever seen in my life, tucked away to the side in the otherwise unremarkable church of Santa Maria della Vita. I think it's the best piece of devotional sculpture in the whole world ... though you'll never have heard of it.

The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca is a group of seven lifesized terracotta figures dating from the 1460s. This is a fragile medium, so even its survival in this condition is impressive, but what the sculptor has managed to depict in dynamic action is just incredible:

And the expressions captured in clay, of the most uncontrolled grief and anguish, are heart-rending:

This is what grief feels like.

I wish I could have taken more photos, but snapping even these few was a bit dodgy.  If you ever go to Bologna, it's well worth visiting in person. I went back several times, and it never lost its distressing power.


Jo said...

Wow. That is quite amazing.

Mary Harris said...

Maybe it's the mom thing, but when I see any mother-son tableau, I well up. <3

Janine Ashbless said...