Skip to main content

Despair and anguish

This scene is pure emotion. The bloodied body of Jesus has just been taken down from the cross and will be laid in the tomb. The dramatic scene was intended to encourage compassion and reflection in those who looked at it.

John the Evangelist and Mary support Christ’s dead body, which already lies on the white shroud. In the background, three women show their despair and anguish. On the right is Mary Magdalene: she is recognisable from her sumptuous clothes.



The skull in the foreground, in keeping with a medieval legend, is that of Adam. The first man is said to have been buried in this place (Golgotha). Through his death on the cross, Christ redeemed mankind from the original sin that Adam committed in the Garden of Eden.



At the time of the museum’s opening in 1904, this panel was attributed to Rogier van der Weyden. His influence is indeed visible – but this is because this work is by one of Rogier’s workers: Vranke van der Stockt, who succeeded Rogier as the official painter of Brussels.



  • Vranke van der Stockt (ca. 1404/1424-1495)
  • Descent from the Cross
  • Oil on oak, 86.6 x 71.2 cm