'Pietà', Ercole de' Roberti, c1482-86

Mary holds the dead Christ, behind them three figures are being crucified amid a crowd of people.

Tempera on panel, 34.4 x 31.3cm,
Accession Number WAG2773

This centre predella panel is part of a large altarpiece that is still in the church of San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna. Originally the panel was positioned above the altar directly in front of the priest's face as he celebrated mass.

Pietà (Italian for 'pity') was a type of Northern European devotional subject that is without scriptural basis. Pietàs were imported to Italy from about 1450. Christ's unidealised blood-drained body, Mary's angular black cloak, her anguished face and tender clasping of her dead son all combine to create an intense emotional effect. This is usually considered Ercole's masterpiece and is one of the finest works to come from the collection of William Roscoe|.