Workshop of Francesco Laurana (attrib.), Pietà with Saints and the Creation of Adam and Eve

15th century
Marble relief, 31 x 81 in. (78 x 205 cm.)
Syracuse Cathedral

The death of Christ, the new Adam, is visually compared to the birth of the old Adam and of Eve. The former is partly seen on the far left, as God draws him forward from the clay of the earth. Eve is on the far right, God drawing her in turn from Adam's body.

The man to the left of the Pietà is St. John the Baptist, identified by his animal-skin tunic and the lamb to which he points. On the other side, with her jar of ointment, is St. Mary Magdalene. The Pietà is mostly conventional, with the exception that Mary has her arms crossed. In most Pietàs she uses her arms to cradle the body. Also unusual is the body's horizontal stiffness.

The label in the church calls the object simply a "Slab." It has about the right dimensions to be an altar frontal. The length argues against its being from a sarcophagus, although the subject would surely be consistent with a funereal purpose.

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More of the Pietà
More of Adam and Eve

Photographed at the site by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.