Here’s another Latin epitaph, this one for the Italian Renaissance sculptor, Niccolo dell’Arca (ca. 1435-1494)
Qui Vitam Saxis Dabat Et Spirantia Signa
Coelo Formabat, Proh Dolor, Hic Situs Est.
Nunc Te Praxiteles Phidias Policretus Adorant
Miranturque Tuas, O Nicolae, Manus.
I send this on not because the Latin is particularly difficult, but for the lovely sentiment in the last line, and to draw attention to this artist whose major works are found in Bologna, a city too often neglected by tourists in Italy. Niccolo designed and executed the canopy over the tomb of St. Dominic in Bologna (hence his name: “dell’Arca”), on which the young Michelangelo collaborated with an angel. But his masterpiece is the “Compianto di Cristo” (Lamentation over the Dead Christ) which can be found in the church of Santa Maria della Vita, a few hundred feet from the main square in Bologna.
The Compianto di Cristo was a fairly common subject at the time: a representation in tableau of the moment in which Christ’s body, taken down from the cross, now lies on the ground, surrounded by several figures: the three Marys, Salome, John the Beloved Disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, contemplating him in grief. (It’s a counterpiece to the tableaux of the nativity, and I would guess that the pieta is a variant within this tradition.) Niccola’s Compianto is perhaps the most dramatic of them all. The mother of Jesus is represented deep in grief, but it is the two Marys whose grief is accompanied by anger and screams. (The figure of the Magdalene has been called “a scream in stone”, as she rushes to the scene and looks down upon Christ’s body.) The two men, typically, are not looking at the dead Christ. Joseph has turned his head away, and John stares into space, contemplatively. You can get some idea of the piece at the Web Gallery of Art, although the photographs could be clearer: http://www.wga.hu/index1.html. Click under “N” in the index and then under Niccolo dell’Arca. By the way, this is a wonderful resource for art.