In the north Italian city of Padua, a major center of Renaissance bronze production, Riccio stood out as the most brilliant master. The Entombment of Christ is a recurring subject in his reliefs. This is his largest single relief and his masterpiece on the theme.
Riccio modeled his crowd of mourners in such high relief that many emerge almost as separate statuettes. To an astonishing degree, space penetrates the crowd and the landscape, flowing behind the freestanding trees. People of all ages join in the funeral procession, their faces and costumes rendered with strength and precision. Their expressions range from stoic sorrow to wild outbursts, with streaming hair, gesticulating arms, and mouths open in howls. These frantic attitudes had precedents in the art of antiquity and in the works of Donatello and his pupil Bellano that Riccio could see in Padua. The scene also recalls the funeral of the mythological hero Meleager, depicted on many Roman sarcophagi and recommended to artists by the theorist Alberti as a convincing portrayal of a dead man weighing down his bearers.
The man just in front of Christ's feet carries an urn inscribed AERDNA, "Andrea" spelled backwards. The presence of this barely disguised signature has led to speculation that the artist intended this relief to mark his own tomb.