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Angra do Heroísmo ,  January 15, 2019

S. Miguel Arcanjo Church's 16th century painting panel classified as property of public interest

The Government of the Azores has classified as movable property of public interest the 16th century painting panel entitled "Lamentation over Dead Christ" by Diogo de Contreiras, owned by the São Miguel Arcanjo Church, in the village of São Miguel, municipality of Vila Franca do Campo.
The classification, published today in the Official Journal, took into account "the classification criteria provided for in the legislation, namely those regarding the main features of the property in question, the genius of its creator, the aesthetic, technical or material value of the property as well as its importance for historical and scientific research."
The studies conducted show that the panel is "one of the masterpieces of 16th century painting in the Azores and one of the excellent pieces of Mannerism in Portugal. For these reasons, it represents an important cultural value at a regional and national level, both in terms of authorship, authenticity and rarity."
The "Lamentation over Dead Christ" panel is the only remaining piece of the main altarpiece commissioned in Lisbon following the reconstruction of the Parish Church of Vila Franca do Campo, after the tragic earthquake of October 22, 1522.
The panel's authorship is attributed to Portuguese painter Diogo de Contreiras, who probably executed it between 1550 and 1560.
Diogo de Contreiras was a pioneer in the aesthetic change that characterises this period in Portuguese painting by introducing a greater theatrical dynamic in his works and intensifying the spiritualistic of religious scenes.
He worked in Lisbon for the best clientele in the kingdom, being considered one of the most creative painters of the 16th century and one of the artists who introduced Mannerism in Portugal.
The panel consists of eight boards in Baltic oak wood (Quercus alba) and its original frame. The entire set measures 1.97 metres (height) by 2.08 metres (width).
It was executed using oil painting techniques with two to four chromatic layers, consisting of a gypsum-based preparation and pigments (lead white, ochre, vermilion, madder, azurite, enamel and charcoal) bonded with linseed oil.
The drawings of figures, buildings and landscapes can be detected on the preparation layer, sometimes visible to the naked eye, making up a composition of remarkable quality.
A dark-toned imprimitura can be observed underlying the central figures.
The painted scene represents, in the foreground, the dead body of Jesus supported on the shoulders by his mother and Mary Magdalene, who holds his legs next to a perfume jar.
At the right of the Virgin, two women assist her and, slightly above, three male figures remain standing, with St John being the nearest and most prominent.
On the right side of the observer, approximately at mid-height, three crosses emerge, and, on the left side, a set of architectural elements and small mounds arise, which eventually define a horizon line.
At the Calvary, near the crosses, there are soldiers in motion, while, behind them, silhouettes appear to be approaching. The entire upper plane is occupied by a heavy and dark sky.
In 2008, the panel was heavily damaged, and its visibility was practically null as it stood in the side chapel next to the epistle.
Between November 2009 and December 2013, it was subject to an extensive historical, technical and scientific study and, subsequently, to thorough conservation and restoration interventions.
In 2014, it returned to the church, being placed in a basalt stone niche shaped as a lancet arch in the nave adjacent to the epistle.


Official government press-releases presented in all foreign languages interfaces of the Azorean Government Portal (Portal do Governo dos Açores) are a sub-set of the government's official press-releases daily output and are chosen for translation and publication on the foreign language interfaces based on audience segmentation criteria. The entire collection of the Azorean government press-releases is available in portuguese, here, from the GACS Press Office site.

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