In this dramatic composition, the figures are packed around Christ to form a compact group. Behind, rises the figure of Joseph of Arimathea, holding up the crown of thorns and the nails of the cross. The strained expressions and gestures and the use of primary colours heighten the intense pathos of the scene. The work is a good example of the stylistic change of Botticelli’s painting in the early 1490s, when he was affected by the preaching of Gerolamo Savonarola and the turmoil that followed the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence and a great patron of the artist.
The Lamentation has been identified as the altarpiece of a small altar, which was still in Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence in the mid-sixteenth century.