Vierge Pieurant sur le Corps au Christ
Although it stands at a mere 28 centimeters, this statue has a powerful effect on the viewer that far surpasses the expectations considering only its size. The sculptor, Bartholomew Paillet, who was born in 1657, created the statue in 1707. The French title of the work is Vierge Pieurant sur le Corps au Christ, which translated, means the virgin weeping over the body of Christ. The terracotta golden statue now resides in The Louvre in Paris, France.
The statue is an example of a pieta, with Mary holding the body of her Son. This theme has the potential to have a powerful effect on the viewer because of the way it can connect with his emotions. The feelings it evokes are so profound because it contrasts the living and the dead, a mother and her son, and human and divine nature. The pieta theme is a representation of the horrific nature of the crucifixion and the reality of a mother losing her child. I have never been in that situation but I have certainly experienced the death of a loved one and there is absolutely nothing worse. There is a quote by an anonymous author that says, “Mourning is love with nowhere to go.” In the case of a mother losing a child it is much harder because it is so unnatural. That is not the way it is supposed to be but because we live in a fallen world, these are some of the consequences with which we are forced to deal. When sin entered the world, we all got a lot more trouble than Adam and Eve ever imagined.
I think the Christian community, especially, can relate to the pieta theme on many different levels, both in our walks of faith, as well as in family relationships. Obviously we know the story, and the emotion on Mary’s face and the limpness of Christ’s body is sure to cause a stirring within us. Beyond that though, we find comfort in the fact that we can have faith in Heaven and life after death. Because of our faith and our Savior, we know that we will see our loved ones again if they dedicated their lives in service to Jesus Christ. Without that assurance, death is unbearable, but with our faith it is a tiny bit easier. Just as John Taylor said, “While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”
Paillet does a good job of conveying the emotions felt by Mary in the sculpture even though only her profile can be seen from the viewer’s perspective. The sorrow in her eyes and her hand reaching to touch Christ’s arm as she kneels to the ground cannot fail to touch the hearts of the viewers. Her mouth is slightly open and I can imagine her struggling to breathe as she tries to comprehend the horrid things she has just watched her only son endure. In my opinion, the pieta theme, including this sculpture by Paillet, is one of the most powerful themes in art because of the feelings it is able to evoke in the viewer.