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Relief - The Lamentation
  • The Lamentation
    de Juni, Juan, born 1507 - died 1577
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The Lamentation

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Salamanca (City) (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    de Juni, Juan, born 1507 - died 1577 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted terracotta relief

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 1

Juan de Juni executed several versions of this composition, all in terracotta (baked clay), and almost certainly all cast from moulds. The twisted and Mannerist-style forms are typical of this sculptor's work. Although all his known sculpture was made in Castile in Spain, Juan de Juni was probably French in origin.

The present version should be assigned to the workshop of Juan de Juni, and can be tentatively dated to the 1540s , approximately contemporary with the Salamanca relief. It was probably a devotional object, intended to be hung in a chapel or church, or in a private house. The inscription on the frame reinforces its devotional purpose.

Physical description

Painted terracotta relief depicting the Lamentation in a painted and gilt wood frame.

Place of Origin

Salamanca (City) (possibly, made)


ca. 1540-1550 (made)


de Juni, Juan, born 1507 - died 1577 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Painted terracotta relief

Marks and inscriptions

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. And why will not the sword pierce your soul also?
The first part of the inscription up to (sorrow) is from the Book of Lamentations, 1, 12. It has not been possible to trace the source of the final sentence, which is inscribed along the bottom of the frame. The Latin appears to be corrupt and may be the result of a later repainting of the lettering. Infra-red photography did not reveal an alternative wording beneath the present surface.


Height: 45 cm with frame, Width: 55 cm with frame, Depth: 6 cm with frame, Height: 30.5 cm without frame, Width: 40 cm without frame

Object history note

Bought by John Charles Robinson from don jose Calcerrada in Madrid in 1863 for £4.

Historical context note

The mannerist style of the composition, with its elongated, contorted figures and nerviosidad is typical of the work of Juan de Juni. Comparable works by this artist include a pieta on the tomb of Guttiere de Castro in the Cathedral of Salamanca, almost certainly dating from around 1540 and a figure group of the Virgin with the dead Christ attributed to Juan de Juni in the Museo Mares , Barcelona .

Other versions of the present piece are in the Archaeological Museum in León, in the Diocesan Museum in Valladolid, and in the Camón Aznar Collection formerly in Madrid, and now in Zaragoza. With the exception of the Camón Aznar relief, the sizes are virtually. A smaller variant with the composition laterally inverted is in the National Museum of Sculpture in Valladolid. The version in the Diocesan Museum in Valladolid and in the Archaeological Museum in León respectively have been attributed to Juan de Juni. The difficulties arising from trying to distinguish autograph from workshop versions of these releifs can be seen from the fact that Martín González ascribed the one in León to Juan de Juni in 1977, citing Gómez-Moreno. Gómez-Moreno had described the piece as : "bajorrelieve de barro policromado; sutamano, 31 por 40 centimetros; roto. Obra de Juni, conocida por otro ejemplar igual que hay en san martin de Valladolid; representa la piedad, con paisaje y figurillas por fondo." Martín González also attributed the Valladolid relief to Juan de Juni in the text of his monograph, contrasting it with León and Camón Aznar pieces, which were said to be after the Valladolid relief. However in the catalogue at the end of the monograph, Martín González described the León version as a product of Juni's workshop, but by implication both the Valladolid and the Camón Aznar version are listed as autograph works; they are included in the catalogue of works without the word "taller" (workshop). In correspondence, Profesor Martín González has confirmed that he believes the Camón Aznar relief to be workshop.
Profesor Martín González has argued that the ‘original’ version by Juan de Juni himself is the one in Valladolid, which may in turn be identical with the relief mentioned in the inventory of the belongings of Juana Martínez, of the Parish of S.Ildefonso in Valladolid. This inventory was made on the 10th January 1613, shortly after the death of Juana Martínez. She was the widow of Isaac de Juni, Juan de Juni’s illegitimate son, himself a sculptor. The inventory lists a relief in terracotta of the Descent from the Cross , although it must remain speculative whether this is indeed one of the reliefs under discussion, as Martín González notes.
In the early eighteenth century, Palomino stated that the version now in Valladoilid (then in the church of St Martin in Valladolid was cast by ‘algunos escultores’, which was why various other versions existed. However with one probable exception , the known surviving pieces are probably contemporary with one another, whereas the theory that copies were made by other artists implies that they were made at a slightly later date, perhaps after Juan de Juni’s death in 1577. There is no perceptible difference in the definition of the forms in the examples from Valladolid, Leon and London., although the polychromy varies in quality. Examination of the backs of the versions in Valladolid and León has however indicated the were made slightly differently from each other. Each was cast from a mould but the clay used for the Valladolid version was carefully and compactly inserted, while the clay in the version from Leon was inserted in layers in a far cruder construction. This suggests that they were certainly made by different hands, perhaps at different times. The Valladolid, Leon and London pieces are all the same size, the Camón Aznar version is approximately 5 cm smaller in both height and width. This piece will be discussed separately below.
From inspection of the front of the reliefs in Valladolid, Leon and London, Trusted concludes that all three were made for display. This is inferred from the fact that in all cases, polychromy contemporary with the reliefs survives at least in part, and that wood frames are extant on all but the Valladolid version. (This seems to contradict Palomino’s comments, which imply that other artists made copies for their own use, in adulation of Juan de Juni.) For these reasons it seems possible that, and even probable, that despite differences between the surviving examples, , the composition was always intended to be reproduced in multiples , and that the reliefs in Valladolid, León and London should be accorded equal status , no one of the necessarily being closer to the (or further from) the work of the sculptor than any of the others.
Having modelled an ‘original’ in clay which was probably then fired in order to harden it, Juan de Juni could have had made in his workshop a mould of this, from which numerous copies were cast.
According to Trusted, the painting is likely to have been carried out in Juan de Juni’s own workshop rather than to have been sub-contracted. The technical differences between Valladolid and Leon versions previously described, may mean that two were made at different times from one another , although almost certainly during the sixteenth-century, and probably within Juni’s workshop. The relief mentioned in the 1613 inventory (if it does have any connection with the present piece) may be a fifth version which has been subsequently lost., or it may be identical with one of the surviving examples in Valladolid, Leon or London. Although Juana Martinez lived in Valladolid, insufficient evidence exists to suggest it is the piece now in Valladolid.
The relief in Zaragoza is a reduced version of the composition of the other three; it does not seem to have been cut down, despite the fact that it is about 15 per cent smaller than the others. This could be accounted for by postulating that it is an after cast. If a mould had been made from on of the surviving reliefs and clay was pressed into this and then fired, the shrinkage caused by firing would account for the difference in sizes. This would also explain why the forms are less clear., because it was made at one remove. It may be contemporary with the other pieces but it is more likely to from a later period, after the original mould (used for the other pieces was lost or destroyed).
The present version should be assigned to the workshop of Juan de Juni, and can be tentatively dated to the 1540s , approximately contemporary with the Salamanca relief. It was probably a devotional object, intended to be hung in a chapel or church, or in a private house. The inscription on the frame reinforces its devotional purpose.

Descriptive line

Panel relief, painted terracotta, depicting the Lamentation in a painted and gilt wood frame, by the workshop of Juan de Juni, possibly Salamanca (city), ca. 1540-1550.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Trusted, Marjorie. Spanish Sculpture. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 172 p., ill. ISBN 1851771778.
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1864 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 52
Riera, J. Garriga and González Martín, J. J. (eds.). Catalog d'escultura I pintura dels segles Xvi, XVII, i XVIII (Fons del Museu Frederic Mavès 3), Barcelona, 1969, pp. 145-6
Riaño, Juan F. Classified and descriptive catalogue of the art objects of Spanish production in the South Kensington Museum. "(First edition)" London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1872, p. 2




Painting; Relief

Subjects depicted

Tree; Cross


Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Reliefs


Sculpture Collection

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