Vincent painted this Pietà during his stay at the hospital in Saint-Rémy in 1889. There, Vincent resumed his old habit of making oil copies of reproductions of the works of art he admired.
A Pietà (which is Italian for ‘compassion’ or ‘piety’) is the name for a picture or representation of the dead Christ accompanied by the Virgin Mary. Vincent’s painting of a Pietà is based on a lithograph by Nanteuil after a painting by Eugène Delacroix. His version is more a variation on the original than a true copy: the painter adopted both the subject and composition, but executed it in his own color and style.
If you take a careful look at the red-bearded Christ in the Pietà, you may see some resemblance between Vincent and Christ. It could be that the painter identified with Christ, who had also suffered and been misunderstood.
Vincent wrote about this painting to his brother on September 7 or 8 1889:
“I had a piece of bad luck this last time during my illness – that lithograph of Delacroix’s, La Pietà along with some other sheets, fell into some oil and paint and was ruined.
I was very sad about it – so I have been busy painting it and you will see it one day on a size 5 or 6 canvas. I have made a copy of it which I think has some feeling.”
Current location: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands