Mazzoni’s Compianto

November 10, 2010 / Art & Archaeology
Naples, Campania
mazzonicompianto1Amongst the many Renaissance treasures to be seen in the church of Santa Anna dei Lombardi is an extraordinary group of life-size figures by Guido Mazzoni. They compose a Compianto or Lamentation over the body of Christ, sculpted in terracotta with enormous realism and drama. Six such tableaux are attributed to Mazzoni, a native of Modena; this is his last, created between 1492 and 1497. Later he was to enjoy great success at the court of Charles VIII of France and in this group we can see why.

mazzonicompianto2Originally painted in many colours, unfortunate restorations have removed the original surface and now they appear as if cast in bronze. Yet their power to move us endures.

Sources have identified Mazzoni’s Joseph as Alfonso II of Naples, and Nicodemus as Ferdinand I of Naples. Interesting facts. But what matters is the beauty of the group and the palpable emotional charge that seems to run between them.

Photos in order are:
Joseph of Arimathea…
Mary Magdalene, Mary of Salome (mother of James and John)…
Mary of Cleopas, St. John the Evangelist, Nicodemus and Christ.
Behind Christ’s head appears his grieving mother Mary.


Penny Ewles-Bergeron

by Penny Ewles-Bergeron

Author, artist… celebrating the many good things in Naples.

5 Responses to “Mazzoni’s Compianto”

  1. There is another fantastic Compianto by Niccolo dell’ Arca in the church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna. Thank you for showing us this one from Napoli. You’re right, their power to move us certainly does endure.

  2. Your written description alone was enough to pique my interest in seeing this important work. A must-see on my next trip.
    Thank you Penny!

  3. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks for your feedback. We hope to be in Bologna soon so will try to ensure we visit Santa Maria della Vita. As to original colours I have no further info. sorry to say. But I think the palette available to late 15th century artists would have been stunning, based on contemporary paintings and funerary monuments where the colours do survive.
    Also see an earlier note on the Vasari refectory ceiling – this is really an amazing church!

  4. These sculptures are magnificent! I have never heard of these before. Such a shame that restoration stripped them of their original vibrant colors…Great article Penny!


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